The advent of renewable chemistry, as an enabler for sustainable products, has resulted in the constant exploration of potential platforms for downstream chemicals. Isosorbide has emerged as such a platform chemical, with potential applications across a host of industries including polymers, resins, and additives. Isosorbide is a bio-based chemical made from glucose that is also known as D-Isosorbide or D-sorbitol. It is a renewable platform chemical used for downstream chemical production and can be used in polymers, solvents, and surfactants among others. It has the potential of replacing fossil resource based products in applications such as monomers, polymers, solvents, and functional materials. Derivatives of isosorbide include isosorbide mononitrate and isosorbide dinitrate and find applications in the medical sector. Isosorbide has been produced and consumed in small quantities globally for a long time now; however, recent technological developments in the industry have been promoting its use in a wide range of applications. It finds application in various polymers such as polyethylene, polycarbonate, polyurethane, and plasticizers. The major application of isosorbide is copolymerization with Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) to enhance the strength of the polymer. Some of the other applications of isosorbide include industrial solvents, pharmaceuticals, and personal care products. In medical applications, it is used to cure angina pectoris, hydrocephalus, and glaucoma.
Global bioplastics production capacity increased significantly in 2010 from 249 kilo tons in 2009 to 1,016 kilo tons in 2010. Due to regulatory support and technology development, several participants are expected to add production capacities in the coming future. This is expected to spur isosorbide demand owing to its application as a platform chemical for bioplastics. Isosorbide and its derivatives also find wide applications in cosmetics, drug delivery, and medicine formulations. Dimethyl Isosorbide (DMI) is used as a sustainable solvent for skin care products and drugs formulation. The skincare market was valued at almost USD 85 billion in 2008, which grew to more than USD 100 billion in 2013. Corn, used in starch and glucose production is also a key raw material for isosorbide. With increasing demand from food and animal feed applications, corn supply and prices have been in a state of flux in recent times. The global debate of food and fuel has impacted prices of feed grains, food grains, and oil seeds. Ensuring steady raw material supply at feasible prices is expected to be a key challenge for industry participants over the next six years.
Key application segments analyzed and reported in this study include PEIT, polycarbonates, polyurethanes, polyesters polyisosorbide succinate, isosorbide diesters, and others. Owing to successful research and usage of isosorbide in polyethylene terephthalate, this application is expected to be the fastest growing segment over the coming years. Incessant research on isosorbide applications in functional polymers has been prolific and has resulted in some companies adopting methods for efficient use of isosorbide as a monomer or additive. Isosorbide demand for PEIT was estimated at 3,586.9 tons in 2012. Isosorbide is also being increasingly used as an additive for polyurethane production, which accounted for 9.6% of global isosorbide volume in 2012. Polyurethane based on isosorbide revealed properties such as high thermal stability and low polydispersity. It can be further used in the production of foams and coatings. Proven isosorbide potential in polyurethanes and continuous research efforts on isosorbide as a green alternative is expected to boost the global market. Polyester polyisosorbide succinate is another growing application of isosorbide and accounted for 14.1% of the total demand in 2012. Major companies producing isosorbide for polymer applications include Roquette and ADM. Polyester polyisosorbide succinate finds application in ink, toners, and powder coatings.
Isosorbide market volume shares by application, 2012
Key end-use segments for isosorbide analyzed and reported in this study include polymers, resins, and additives. Resins and polymers are expected to be the fastest growing end-use industries for isosorbide, with several application opportunities on the horizon. Resins and polymers accounted for 64.8% of the global isosorbide demand in 2012. Growing interest of polymer industries in bio-based products is expected to boost the global isosorbide market over the forecast period. Major chemical companies such as Mitsubishi Chemicals and SK Chemicals have been focusing on the production of polymers based on isosorbide. Additives are an emerging avenue for isosorbide and accounted for 21.7% of the total isosorbide end-use demand in 2012. Isosorbide is already being used in polymer additives and is expected to show significant growth for the same in the future. It also has shown potential to be used in fuels and fuel additives as a bio-based intermediate.
Asia Pacific emerged as the leading regional isosorbide market and accounted for 41.4% of the total market in 2012. The growing capacity of bioplastics mainly in China has been driving the demand for isosorbide in the region. Along with being the biggest market, it is also expected to be the fastest growing market for isosorbide over the forecast period. The growing bio-based plastics manufacturing capacity, mainly in China, due to low labor and the raw material cost has been one of the major factors driving the demand for isosorbide. Major chemical and biotechnology companies have been shifting their manufacturing bases to low-cost countries such as China, India, Thailand and Indonesia. Bio-plastics are the major application for isosorbide and increasing capacity of bio-plastics in the region is expected to ensure a steady demand for isosorbide over the forecast period. Asia Pacific was followed by Europe, which accounted for 31.7% of the total market in 2012. The growing demand for bio-based plastics in the developed economies of Europe is expected to boost the market for isosorbide in the region. Favorable regulatory scenario, promoting sustainable chemistry is a key market driver for Europe. North America emerged as the third biggest consumer of isosorbide and accounted for 20.8% of the global market in 2012.
Isosorbide is currently a very niche market and is dominated by France-based Roquette. Other multinational companies such as ADM, SK Chemicals, and Novaphene are also expected to commercialize their product in the near future. However, presence of large unorganized market mainly in China poses great threat to these multinational corporations.
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