DoD/DOE Blog


Market Snapshot: Growth Trends in Plastics Development and Recycling

The tagline, “plastics make it possible,” has been commonplace for years. However, recently, the environmental impact of these products has begun to garner negative attention. Despite being commonly defined as one material, there are many different types of plastics, each with different properties and uses. These are typically divided into four main categories: thermoplastics, thermosets, engineering plastics, and plastic fibers. Despite the ubiquity of plastics in our lives today, only about 2% of plastics like bottles are recycled into the same or similar-quality applications.  Given the gaps in recycling, and the potential impact of these trends, research is being carried out in a variety of related areas, including Designing Plastics for a Circular Carbon Economy and Reimagining Plastic Degradation for Upcycling.

According to BCC Research, the North American transparent plastics market should reach 5.6 billion pounds by 2022 from 4.5 billion pounds in 2017 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.6%, from 2017 to 2022, and in turn, the global market for plastics recycling should grow from $25.3 billion in 2018 to $33.8 billion by 2023 at a CAGR of 5.9% for the period of 2018-2023. MarketsandMarkets forecast that the global market for recycled plastics was valued at $34.80 billion in 2016 and is projected to reach $50.36 billion by 2022, at a CAGR of 6.4% during the forecast period. This market is expected to be positively impacted by concerns arising from the difficulty in disposal of virgin plastics, the growing awareness of energy savings, and the increased use of these plastics in many applications. Recycled plastics can be used in a wide range of goods, including: plastic bottles, bin liners, carrier bags, fiber filling for sleeping bags and duvets, office accessories, drainage pipes, ducting and flooring, fleeces, seed trays, garden sheds, compost bins, fences, and furniture. These goods find applications in several industries such as packaging, textile, building & construction, transportation, and others.

While ridged, transparent plastics represent the majority of what we think of as plastics, biodegradable polymers are designed to degrade upon disposal by the action of living organisms, and may be used in place of more traditional plastics for a variety of applications. BCC Research reports that the global market for biodegradable polymers reached 484.7 kilotons in 2017 and should reach 984.8 kilotons by 2022, at a CAGR of 15.2% for the period of 2017-2022. MarketsandMarkets goes on to note that the market for biodegradable plastics is expected to reach $6.12 billion by 2023 – up from $3.02 billion in 2018, growing at a CAGR of 15.1%. This growth is attributed to the rising income of people in emerging economies, and high growth in the agriculture & horticulture, packaging & bags, and textile industries. Major players such as NatureWorks (US), BASF (Germany), Total Corbion PLA (Netherlands), Mitsubishi Chemical Corporation (Japan), and Biome Bioplastics (UK) have adopted development strategies such as expansions, mergers, acquisitions & partnerships, and new product launches to achieve growth in the biodegradable plastics market.

Additional trends in the waste and plastics recycling market, as identified by Frost & Sullivan include: the effect of the waste import ban imposed by China, which has the potential to drive investment opportunities for countries like Australia, Japan, Germany, the UK, and the US. Furthermore, the Internet of things, smart recycling, smart bins, smart eWaste bins, innovative business models, use of sustainable building materials, sustainable methods of managing plastic waste, and its market potential are all seen as major factors influencing this market.

To address concerns regarding plastics, government agencies have initiated a variety of programs. For example, the U.S. Navy recently published an analysis of its recycling programs and found that gaps existed, leading to new recommendations for its recycling programs. To help solve recycling problems for the average American, the U.S. EPA provides a variety of recommendations to help improve recycling rates and effectiveness. The EPA utilizes data from the American Chemistry Council and the National Association for PET Container Resources to measure the recycling of plastic. The most recent findings report a 3.1 million tons for a 9.1 percent recycling rate in 2015, but the recycling rate of PET bottles and jars was 29.9 percent in 2015, and the rate for HDPE natural bottles was 30.3 percent in 2015.

The DOE Office of Environment, Health, Safety & Security serves as a major influencer in this space. According to DOE, the DOE Pollution Prevention, Waste Reduction and Recycling Program supports Executive Order (E.O.) 13693, Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next DecadeDOE Order 436.1, Department Sustainability; and, the Department’s SSPP. This program aims to reduce or eliminate the acquisition, use, and release of toxic, and other pollutants, and to increase the Department’s use of less toxic alternative chemicals and processes in achieving DOE’s FY 2020 SSPP Goal 7 reduction targets. Goal 7 reduction targets are:

  • at least 50% diversion of non-hazardous solid waste;  and,
  • at least 50% diversion of construction and demolition debris

A tangible example of DOE’s commitment to improving recycling capabilities was announced in January 2017 through its Reducing Embodied-energy and Decreasing Emissions (REMADE) Institute. REMADE is part of the Manufacturing USA initiative and led by the Sustainable Manufacturing Innovation Alliance.  With its headquarters in Rochester, New York REMADE will leverage up to $70 million in federal funding, subject to appropriations, and will be matched by $70 million in private cost-share commitments from over 100 partners. The REMADE Institute will focus on driving down the cost of technologies needed to reuse, recycle and remanufacture materials such as metals, fibers, polymers and electronic waste and aims to achieve a 50 percent improvement in overall energy efficiency by 2027.

The DOE and USDA are collaborating on efforts relating to the Circular Carbon Economy, which necessitates crosscutting technologies, especially those for the land, agricultural, and energy sectors. To further explore these technologies and needs, the groups held a summit during the summer of 2018. In addition to this past summit, other learning opportunities include the upcoming Plastics Recycling Conference this March and the Resource Recycling Conference in August.

Market Snapshot: Bionic Devices & Exoskeletons

Exoskeletons might first make you think about insects, or sci-fi, but practically speaking, they offer a great deal of potential for added protection, off-loading, extended endurance and increased mobility. While most exoskeletons contain rigid elements that can restrict natural movement, non-rigid approaches exist, but must still be strapped to the body. In most cases, the weight of the exoskeleton is borne by the wearer through the body interfaces, therefore, these systems have the potential to increase the risk for injury unless some key questions are addressed. In nature there are many examples of creatures with both a hard protective exoskeletons as well as softer, hair-based and flexible exoskeletons. Some animals have both an endoskeleton and an exoskeleton, but in all cases, there is an interface between the “harder” protective portion and the “softer” fleshy portion of the animal. The design of these types of creatures offer biomimetic and bio-inspired approaches toward an effective human-exoskeleton interface. An effective interface is one that considers natural human movement, minimizes the forces exerted on or carried by the body and results in negligible long-term injury to the wearer. Continue reading “Market Snapshot: Bionic Devices & Exoskeletons”

Market Snapshot: Exascale Computing & Hyperscale Data Centers

Extreme-scale or exascale computing that is 50 to 100 times faster than the fastest systems of today is planned to be available in the 2021-23 timeframe and will enable major advances in a broad range of fields, including the discovery of new materials, accurate prediction of severe weather events, reducing pollution, investigating new treatments for cancer, and enabling faster and more accurate engineering designs. Advancements in this area will in turn form the basis for the next generation of widely deployed systems in data centers in the commercial and academic sectors.

Hyperscale data centers are a growing market, and some see these as an enabling technology for exascale computing. BCC Research reports that the global market for hyperscale data centers will grow from $39.0 billion in 2017 to $98.2 billion by 2022 with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 20.3% for the period of 2017-2022. While relatively new to the mainstream data center market, hyperscale data centers have long been used by internet companies to manage the massive volumes of data that companies use to store information and scale up their business infrastructure. While initially only serving a few, hyperscale data centers are expanding into mainstream data centers, led by large enterprises in financial services, telecommunications and retail who need the economies of scale and flexibility the technologies provide. This expansion is being driven by firms transforming their IT organizations and networks to enable their own cloud computing environments, whereas others are designing parallel infrastructures to work more seamlessly with the major cloud providers through private cloud, public cloud or hybrid cloud models. According to BCC Research, the demand for this kind of flexible scalability is expected to grow from $21.5 billion in 2016 to $98.2 billion by 2022 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 20.3%. Continue reading “Market Snapshot: Exascale Computing & Hyperscale Data Centers”

Market Snapshot: Oilfield Services & Technologies

When you think of an oilfield, what comes to mind? Most people are familiar with the appearance of a traditional drilling rig, but what goes into making it work safely, effectively, and efficiently is an increasingly complex technical arena?

As part of this technical area, the Department of Energy’s Fossil Energy Office of Oil & Natural Gas supports research and policy options to ensure domestic and global supplies of oil and natural gas and provides overviews on many sectors of interest, including Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR), which was initially developed as a method to extract additional oil from reservoirs after primary and secondary recovery methods ceased to be productive enough to maintain economic field operation. BCC Research reports that the global EOR market totaled nearly $22.9 billion in 2016 and should total $30.4 billion by 2021, with a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.9% through 2021. This market includes a wide variety of products and components, such as injection pumps, wellheads, specialized well tubing, chemical feeder systems, air separation units, gas compressors, blowers, steam generators, specialized storage vessels, gas recapture and separation systems, and various other equipment and facilities. Additionally, this market includes surfactants, polymers, alkali chemicals, liquid nitrogen and CO2, which act as oil recovery media. Continue reading “Market Snapshot: Oilfield Services & Technologies”

Market Snapshot: Building Energy Efficiency

The concepts of green building and building energy efficiency seem to be everywhere, but what do they really mean, and how do they impact both our lives and the economy? The Department of Energy’s Building Technologies Office’s (BTO’s) Multi-Year Program Plan (MYPP) for Fiscal Years 2016-2020 is a helpful resource to learn about energy use in the buildings sector, new opportunities for cost-effective energy savings, the barriers to their achievement, and BTO’s strategies and goals for achieving significant reductions in building energy use intensity. According to the BTO, “We spend more than $400 billion each year to power our homes and commercial buildings, consuming approximately 74% of all electricity used in the United States, about 40% of our nation’s total energy bill. And much of this energy and money is wasted—over 30% on average. If we cut the energy use of U.S. buildings by 20%, we could save approximately $80 billion annually on energy bills and help create jobs.” Continue reading “Market Snapshot: Building Energy Efficiency”

Market Snapshot: Nuclear Energy

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, nuclear power has reliably and economically contributed almost 20% of electrical generation in the United States over the past two decades, and remains the single largest contributor (more than 70%) of non-greenhouse-gas-emitting electric power generation in the United States.

In order to deploy this type of power, a variety of key technologies are necessary. Small modular reactors (SMRs) are best suited to small electric grids and locations that cannot support large reactors, and can serve as a “plug and play” option, which reduces capital costs and construction times. They also offer utilities the flexibility to scale production as demand changes. Currently, the most common reactors in the United States are the Boiling Water Reactors (BWR) and Pressurized Water Reactors (PWR), both variants of the Light Water Reactor (LWR). The large majority of operating LWRs are PWRs – the primary difference is the combination of pressure and the temperature of the coolant, which enables major design differences between the two types of reactors. Advanced Reactor Technologies are being explored by DOE, including the Next Generation Nuclear Plant (NGNP) to demonstrate the technical viability of high temperature gas-cooled reactor (HTGR) technology and the Advanced Reactor Concepts (ARC) program supporting research for advanced reactor subsystems addressing long-term technical barriers for the development of advanced nuclear fission energy systems utilizing coolants such as liquid metal, fluoride salt, or gas. Continue reading “Market Snapshot: Nuclear Energy”

Market Snapshot: Advanced Manufacturing

With science and technology continually advancing, how do you define advanced manufacturing? Broadly speaking, advanced manufacturing uses innovative technology to improve products or processes. Given the broad definition of advanced manufacturing, several markets fall under its umbrella.  provides a glossary that covers key terms in advanced manufacturing with helpful definitions for growing areas such as smart manufacturing, Rapid Prototyping, Robotics, Digital Manufacturing, Computer-Aided Design (CAD), Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAM), 3D Printing, and Additive Manufacturing. To provide additional insights, the  American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) infographic titled Understanding Advanced Manufacturing.

As part of the advanced manufacturing market, MarketsandMarkets reports that the smart factory market is forecast to be valued at $205.42 billion by 2022, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.3%, between 2017 and 2022. The group attributes this growth to the increase in adoption of industrial robots, and the evolution of Internet of Things (IoT). Furthermore, distributed control system (DCS) technology is expected to hold the largest share of the overall smart factory market in 2017. As described by MnM, DCS is used to offer regulatory controls to the manufacturing process industry and provides the finest control for the regulatory applications and is used for the integration of power measuring devices, drives, and soft starters. Integration of motor managing data in the DCS helps in real-time monitoring of the motors and is used to detect the failures in the motors before their occurrences. In terms of the major players in this space, the following components, equipment manufacturers, system integrators, and distributors provide noteworthy offerings: ABB Ltd.(Switzerland), Atos SE (France), Emerson Electric Co. (U.S.), FANUC Corporation (Japan), General Electric Co. (U.S.), Honeywell International Inc. (U.S.), Mitsubishi Electric Corporation (Japan), Robert Bosch GmbH (Germany), Rockwell Automation, Inc. (U.S.), Schneider Electric SE (France), Siemens AG (Germany), and Yokogawa Electric Corporation (Japan). Continue reading “Market Snapshot: Advanced Manufacturing”

Market Snapshot: Advanced Batteries

Today, batteries are used to power a broad array of products ranging from everyday personal electronics and medical devices to commercial and military electric vehicles, unmanned systems, and aviation engines.

BCC Research reports that the global large-and-advanced battery market totaled nearly $23.7 billion in 2014 and is projected to approach $30.9 billion by 2019, registering a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.5% through 2019. The global market for lithium batteries totaled $5.9 billion in 2010. The market should reach $10.6 billion in 2015 and $13.3 billion in 2020, demonstrating a CAGR of 4.5% from 2015 to 2020. The global market for advanced battery and fuel cell materials reached $22.7 billion in 2016 and should reach $32.8 billion by 2022, growing at a CAGR of 7.6% from 2017 to 2022. Continue reading “Market Snapshot: Advanced Batteries”

Market Snapshot: Membranes & Materials for Energy Efficiency

Membranes and separation technologies are taking on new forms and are playing an ever-expanding role in many industries. Generally speaking, separation technologies are used to recover, isolate, and purify products. Using membranes rather than incumbent methods could reduce both energy use and costs in many industrial processes and application areas including fuel cells, Gallium Nitride (GaN) wafers/semiconductors, hydrogen refueling stations, and more.

According to MarketsandMarkets coverage of this space, the global membrane separation technology market is expected to reach $28.10 Billion by 2022 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.2% with such players as The Dow Chemical Company (U.S.), The 3M Company (U.S.), GE Water & Process Technologies (U.S.), Toray Industries (Japan), Merck Millipore (Germany), Asahi Kasei Corporation (Japan), Hydranautics (U.S.), Danaher Corporation (U.S.), Pentair plc (U.K.), and Koch Membrane Systems Inc. (U.S.) leading the market. BCC Research reports that the global market for membrane microfiltration was nearly $1.8 Billion in 2014, almost $1.9 Billion in 2015, and will grow at CAGR of 6.7% to reach close to $2.6 Billion by 2020. These figures from BCC include their use in food and beverage processing, biopharmaceuticals manufacture, potable water production, wastewater treatment, industrial processes, and semiconductor fabrication. Frost & Sullivan also provides extensive coverage on membranes and advanced materials. In its coverage of membrane bioreactors, Frost & Sullivan discusses a variety of competitive factors, including the important role of total system and other costs associated with these systems. BCC Research reports that the global market for membrane bioreactor systems (MBRs) totaled $425.7 million in 2014 and is projected to approach $777.7 million by 2019. Continue reading “Market Snapshot: Membranes & Materials for Energy Efficiency”

Market Snapshot: Non-Destructive Test, Evaluation, and Inspection Markets

Non-destructive testing, evaluation, and inspection (NDT, NDE, NDI) equipment and techniques allow for the examination of an object without impacting its current or future usefulness. This capability can improve a product’s design, reduce manufacturing costs, and provide a consistent level of quality. The NDT equipment market is commonly segmented based on technology type, including ultrasonic, magnetic and electromagnetic, visual inspection, radiography, and penetrant testing. Major end-use markets include aerospace, defense, automotive, renewable energy, oil and gas, infrastructure, and more. Continue reading “Market Snapshot: Non-Destructive Test, Evaluation, and Inspection Markets”