Nitriles are organic compounds having a triple bond between carbon and nitrogen. They are also known as cyanides. The most commonly occurring nitrile is Nitrile Rubber which is a synthetic copolymer of unsaturated acrylonitrile and conjugated butadiene. Such a form of rubber is highly resistant to chemicals. Due to its property of sturdiness, it is largely used in protective gloves used in chemistry laboratories to resist the effect of the chemicals. Nitrile rubber also has applications in the pipelines, hoses, tubes, conveyor belts, shoes, seals and glues. The electronic structure of nitriles is like that of alkyne except for the presence of a lone pair of electrons with nitrogen which makes it a polar molecule. As a result, nitriles tend to have higher boiling points which is one of the property of nitriles that has various applications.
Nitrile Butadiene Rubbers (NBR) and Hydrogenated Nitrile Butadiene Rubber (HNBR) are important elements in the speciality elastomers segment. Specialty Nitriles have a good resistance to oil, heat, ozone, chemicals gives it a secure position in the automobile, adhesives, oil production, electrical, mechanical engineering, consumer goods and ship building industries. Nitrile Butadiene Rubber is abbreviated as NBR and is available in the powdered form. The NBR market was valued at a quarter US $ million in 2013 and is forecasted to double by 2020. The projected CAGR for the forecast period 2013-2020 is around 6% to 8%. The Specialty Nitrile applications are diverse and are growing to find more end use industries.
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Speciality Nitriles have wide application in the global automotive industry which is anticipated to reach a value of approximately US $ 5 trillion by 2015 and further to sell nearly 110 million vehicles in 2020. Specialty Nitriles have unfolded huge opportunities in this end use industry and demand for it is growing due to growing requirement for auto components which is one of the fastest growing industries globally and is expected to be a US $ 100 billion industry by 2020.The top players in NBR are Omnova Solutions, LG Chemicals, Lanxess AG and Zeon Chemicals.
An added advantage is the rise in the sales of two wheelers in the emerging economies such asBRICS countries. Asia Pacific (APAC) is the leading market for NBR with a global market share of 48% in 2011. After the worldwide economic recession of 2008-2009 and Eurozone debt crisis, the global speciality nitrile market slowed down the demand in North America and Western Europe. The largest customer of solid NBR is China while that of Hydrogenated Nitrile Butadiene Rubber (HNBR) is North America, Japan and Europe. The economies such as Malaysia and East Asia are high growth nations and present a large opportunity for Specialty Nitriles. One of the largest application of Specialty Nitrile is in gloves and Malaysia has become the epicenter for its production. Malaysia is now the world’s largest producer of natural rubber with a global market share of approximately 60% to 65%, according to Malaysian Rubber Board.
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The global consumption of nitrile rubber and latex rubber is forecast to increase at an average annual rate of 3 to 4% through 2014- 2020. An improvised version of NBR is Carboxylate Nitrile Butadiene Rubber (XNBR) which is an upcoming technology which have better physical properties compared to NBR.