Dispersing agent, also known as dispersant or plasticizer are active substances as well as non surface active polymers. Dispersing agents are generally added to a colloid to prevent clumping and to enhance separation of particles. Plasticizers consists one or more surfactants, which serve as chemical compounds that reduce surface tension which in turn prevents settling or coagulation of particles. Dispersants are used as additives in a range of products such as petrol, paints and medicines. Theses agents help in maintaining uniformity in mixtures and particles. Industrial grade of dispersing agents can be broadly classified into three types: low molecular, high molecular and polyacrylate polymer dispersants. Dispersants of weight between 1000 to 2000g /mol are known as low molecular dispersing agents. Whereas dispersants between 5000g/mol to 30,000g/mol are categorized as high molecular dispersing agents. Low weight dispersants contains polar groups which help in separation of particles. High weight dispersants are more effective than low weight dispersants as the former uses the concept of hydrogen bonding, dipole-dipole interaction and Van der Waals force for maximum separation of particles. Polyurethanes and Polyacrylates are two of the most popular high molecular dispersing agents.
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Dispersing agents are widely used compounds, which are manufactured from different chemicals such as acrylic acid, polycarboxylate, naphthalene, sulfonate and lignosulfonates. The composition and manufacturing process varies for different end user industries. Some of the key end user industries for dispersing agents include construction, detergents, oil and gas, paints and coatings, pulp and paper and pharmaceuticals. However, construction industry is by far the largest consumer of dispersing agents. In the construction industry, dispersing agents are used as an additive in concrete and gypsum, which serve as the two most important compounds used in this industry.
Asia Pacific accounts for the largest market for dispersing agents. Infrastructural development in most of the emerging Asian countries such as China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Taiwan accounts for the growth of the construction industries in this region. The construction industry which is a key end user of dispersants is fuelling up the demand for these compounds. The market for dispersants is highly fragmented in terms of end user industries on account of its wide scope of industrial applications. Supply-chain trend of raw materials is constant with considerable numbers of raw material suppliers.
Availability of raw materials and lower production cost accounts for the presence of both small scale manufacturers and international manufactures. Due to these factors, an increasing trend in the demand for dispersing agent is observed. Europe accounts for the second largest market for dispersing agents. The market for dispersing agents have been unaffected by the economic slowdown in Europe primarily owing to the presence of large manufacturers such as BASF SE and Arkema Group. Infrastructural development and construction activities in the east European countries, which include most of the former USSR countries, are also enhancing the demand for dispersing agents substantially. North America is the third largest market for dispersants by region. However North America is the second fastest growing market for this compound, only behind Asia Pacific. Developed economies such as the U.S. and Canada are the leading consumers of dispersants.
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The market for dispersing agents is still at its infancy in Rest of the World despite the wide industrial applications of this compound. The under-developed construction industry in Africa and most of the Latin American countries is the primary reason behind the unexplored dispersants market in Rest of the World. However emerging countries such as Brazil and UAE are expected to uplift the demand for dispersing agents in Rest of the World during the forecast period.
Some of the key manufacturers of dispersing agent are BASF SE, Ashland Inc., Arkema Group, The Dow Chemical Company and Clariant AG.