High-Performance Ceramics: Opportunities in India
An inflection point is expected in the next decade for the Indian advanced ceramic materials market.
High-performance ceramics have been key for delivering multiple benefits in challenging and hostile environments. Unique characteristics such as light weight, high hardness, corrosion resistance, and high melting points have made ceramics the materials of choice in nuclear, defense, aerospace, and industrial applications, among others.
The global multi-billion-dollar market for advanced ceramics is continuously growing as new and improved materials are developed and new applications are found. Comparatively, the Indian market for high-performance ceramics is still in its nascent phase. An inflection point is expected to occur in the next decade in the Indian market for these materials as they get adopted at a very high growth rate.
The Indian government has recognized the importance of advanced materials by including them as a key focus area in the IMPRINT India Initiative. IMPRINT lays out a roadmap for the education and research focus for scientific institutions in India, as well as the engineering challenges that the country should focus on. The Indian government’s ambitious “Make in India” campaign, which aims to transform India into a global center of manufacturing excellence, can only be successful if access to high-performance materials is possible within the country.
India has established itself in recent years as one of the largest purchasers of defense equipment as it rapidly modernizes its military. This upgrade and expansion program represents a massive opportunity for high-performance materials in India. The market for ceramics in the Indian defense sector is estimated to grow to $250 million in the next 10 years.
One of the key opportunities within the Indian defense sector will be the adoption of ceramic-based armor solutions across personnel, vehicle and aircraft armor platforms. Existing personnel armor solutions have primarily been high-performance polyethylene (HPPE) or aramid based, while vehicle platforms have primarily used steel armor. With the ever-rising threat levels, the use of higher energy projectiles, and increasingly lightweight combat field requirements, however, ceramic-based armor will be the future standard for the Indian Armed Forces in the years to come.
India has a flourishing and largely indigenous nuclear power program. The country expects to have a 14.6 GWe nuclear capacity on line by 2024 and 63 GWe by 2032. India aims to supply 25% of its electricity from nuclear power by 2050.
The three-stage Indian Nuclear Program includes fast breeder and thorium reactors as a core part of its strategy. These reactor designs use large quantities of high-performance ceramics such as boron carbide (B4C) for neutron shielding, control and safety functions. In addition, ceramic seals rings are used extensively. India will also be undertaking nuclear fuel reprocessing, which would entail further use of ceramics, as will the storage of spent fuel when all of the reactors go critical.
The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has established itself as a global leader for space satellite launches. It has grown rapidly to offer commercial satellite launch services to international governments and private customers, in addition to launching satellites for India’s own strategic needs.
High-performance ceramics are crucial in this program; with the increased number of launches, the opportunity for special ceramic components has also grown. ISRO has also stated its desire to develop reusable launch vehicles, which would necessitate the use of ultra-high-temperature ceramics (UHTCs), as well as electric propulsion systems for future satellites, which will also require special high-performance ceramic materials.
In addition to the nuclear, defense and aerospace sectors, the use of advanced ceramics in India’s industry segment will also increase substantially as the manufacturing sector modernizes and adopts best global practices. Another big driver for the ceramics market in India will be in the electronics segment. Currently, India largely imports its electronics requirements; however, there is a long-term push toward moving electronics manufacturing into the country. The successful realization of this vision would further add to the market opportunity for advanced ceramics.
Growth opportunities for high-performance ceramics in the Indian market, coupled with the availability of highly skilled scientific and engineering talent within the country, make it a unique opportunity for companies to substantially invest in their presence in the Indian market. The next 10 years will deliver excellent returns on the investment of resources.