Sodium silicate is a colorless compound of oxides of sodium and silica. It is a white powder, which is readily soluble in water. It produces an alkaline solution. Sodium silicate is a generic name for a range of compounds derived from soluble silicate glasses that are water solutions of silicon dioxide and sodium oxide in various ratios. These compounds are commercially sold as 20% to 50% aqueous solutions. The aqueous solution of sodium silicate is called water glass. Sodium silicate is stable in neutral and alkaline solutions. In acidic solutions, the silicate ion reacts with hydrogen ions to form silica acid, which when heated and roasted forms silica gel, a hard, glassy substance.
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Sodium silicate is used in a wide range of applications in numerous industries. Primary applications include detergents, water treatment, paper & pulp and building & construction materials. Sodium silicate is an excellent adhesive for sealing fireboard boxes. It is extensively used in drilling fluids to stabilize borehole wells. Additionally, the porosity of building materials such as concrete, stucco and plasters reduces largely when treated with sodium silicate solution. This results in making these materials durable and water repellent. Sodium silicate is utilized as a fixative in the dyeing and coatings markets. It is used as a binder in refractories and investment casting and as a polishing agent for silicon wafers. It is also used in other niche applications such as passive fire protection, food preservation, automotive & metal repair and aquaculture.
Growing specialty detergents & cleaning agents industry in Europe is the key driver for the sodium silicate market in this region as the market for detergents and cleaning products is well-defined. Additionally, highly developed infrastructure in Europe and its maintenance coupled with the demand for sodium silicate in water treatment applications in Europe is expected to act as driving factors for the market growth of sodium silicate over the forecast period. However, availability of substitute products for sodium silicate may curb the market growth in the near future. Increasing use of sodium silicate in enhanced oil recovery (EOR) is projected to open new avenues for the sodium silicate market over the next few years.
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The sodium silicate market in Europe has reached the state of maturity. New applications of sodium silicate have been introduced in the past few years; however, demand for these applications has been low due to stagnant economic growth in the region. Manufacturers in Europe are divesting their business due to sluggish growth and increasingly competitive nature of the business. Low cost of production in countries in Southeast Asia has resulted in many plant closures in the recent years in Europe. Due to these parameters, demand for sodium silicate in Europe is expected to be modest in the near future.
Detergents was the largest application segment of the sodium silicate market, accounting for over 35% of the total market share in 2013 in Europe as specialty detergents and cleaning products is a well-defined market in the region. Elastomers are estimated to be the fastest growing segment during the forecast period due to development in the automotive industry in Europe. Furthermore, catalysts, food & healthcare and other applications are likely to witness above-average growth during the forecast period. However, stringent regulations regarding deforestation in Europe are anticipated to result in steady demand for sodium in paper & pulp applications.
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Demand for sodium silicate stood at 1,005.0 kilo tons in Europe in 2013 and is expected to witness sluggish growth over the next six years. However, several factors such as high demand for detergents, growth in automotive tire industry and usage of sodium silicate in chemical and building & material industries is expected to drive the demand for sodium silicate in Europe.
Key players in the sodium silicate market include PQ Corporation, PPG Industries, Evonik Industries, BASF SE, Tokuyama Europe GmbH, and W.R. Grace & Company. Certain companies in the sodium silicate market are integrated across the various stages of the value chain. These companies captively consume soda ash for the production of sodium silicate and provide services to industries such as specialty detergents & cleaning agents, agriculture, coatings, elastomers, paper & pulp, and food & healthcare. Thus, these companies have a strong presence across all the stages of the value chain.
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