The overall market for advanced composites – which comprises composites based on carbon fibres, carbon nanotubes and graphene – will more than triple to US$25.8 billion by 2020, according to the Lux Research report Carbon Fibre and Beyond: The $26 Billion World of Advanced Composites.

Lux forecasts that the use of advanced composites by wind turbines manufacturers will increase from $2.5 billion in 2011 to $15.4 billion in 2020. Meanwhile, growth in aerospace will lag, despite the introduction of new aircraft  that use large quantities of carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP), such as Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner. In 2020, wind energy will account for nearly 60% of the market for composites, compared with the current 35%.

“Despite serving as a flagship for commercial success of CFRPs, the volumes in aerospace are relatively limited," says Ross Kozarsky, a Lux Research Analyst and the lead author of the report.

"Boeing currently has the capacity to produce only two Dreamliners per month and is striving to raise this figure to 10 by the end of 2013. In wind, 18 405 MW of capacity were added in the first six months of 2011, which translates to over 1000 turbines per month.”

Lux found that the combined market for these materials would rise from $7.0 billion in 2011 to $25.8 billion in 2020, reflecting an average compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 16%.

Other key conclusions of the report include:

  • The aerospace market will grow at a healthy CAGR of 13% over the next decade to $6.3 billion, boosted by Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner and Airbus’ A350 XWB, both of which are built with 50% advanced composites. Boeing’s year-end decision on whether to use aluminium or carbon fibre composites for its next-generation 737 aircraft offers a significant upside.
  • The automotive industry will be the second-largest growth sector with a CAGR of 17% and a spending of $2.1 billion in 2020, but the sector will remain far short of its huge potential over the next decade.
  • Oil and gas industry conservatism and persistence with steel will keep this market a laggard in the use of advanced composites. This sector will register the slowest growth of 5% CAGR, rising to $427 million in 2020.