Kaolin, also known as china clay, is composed of hydrated aluminosilicate clay mineral kaolinite. It possesses properties such as flat particle shape, excellent opacity, non-abrasive texture and chemical inertness among others. Kaolin has a wide range of industrial applications such as paper, ceramics, paints & adhesives and other specialty uses. In addition, kaolin is used in white ware and sanitary ware. Metakaolin is obtained by thermally treating kaolin and is used for several applications such as concrete and mortar among others.
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Rise in construction activities across the globe is expected to drive the demand for ceramics which is used in tiles and sanitary ware. Kaolin is used in large quantities in ceramics to enhance the latter’s characteristics. Thus, rise in construction activities across various regions of the world is expected to subsequently fuel the demand for kaolin. In addition, the increasing demand for cement in concrete and mortar may fuel the demand for metakaolin. Use of metakaolin in cement helps to reduce the carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere, which provides as an eco-friendly alternative. This factor is anticipated to boost the demand for kaolin and metakaolin in near future. However, substitution of kaolin with calcium carbonate in paper applications coupled with increasing kaolin prices may curb the global kaolin and metakaolin market within the next few years. Ongoing research and development in use of bio-ceramics in endodontics may open new avenues for kaolin market over the next few years.
Paper was the largest application segment for the kaolin market and accounted for over 40% of the market share in 2012, owing to their growing demand in emerging economies such as India and China. National governments in the countries of China, India, and other Asian countries are taking initiatives to facilitate literacy rate, which in turn is expected to fuel the demand for writing and printing papers. However, the demand for papers in North America and European countries is expected to decline due to the increasing preference of consumers towards internet and electronic media to access information. Ceramics is expected to exhibit fastest growth on account of its use in various applications processes. Ceramics are largely used in sanitary ware, wall and floor tiles and vitreous clay pipes on account of their varied properties such as high strength, longevity, chemical inertness and electrical resistance. These parameters are expected to boost the demand for kaolin in ceramics. Furthermore, the growing rubber industry on account of the increasing demand from the automobile sector is expected to fuel the demand for kaolin in near future. Other segments including fiberglass, paper and plastics are anticipated to lose their market share to ceramics and rubber segments over the next six years.
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Demand for kaolin and metakaolin was highest in Asia Pacific on account of rapid industrialization and urbanisation. Asia Pacific accounted for over 35% of both kaolin and metakaolin market in 2012. Growth of the ceramic market in Europe, which includes table ware, wall and floor tiles, is expected to in turn drive the demand for kaolin in Europe over the forecast period. North America being a mature market with respect to construction industry is expected to witness a steady growth within the forecast period.
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Companies such as BASF, Imerys, Kaolin AD, Thiele Kaolin Company and Quarzwerke are the key players present in the global kaolin and metakaolin market.