Sodium silicate is produced by reacting silica with sodium carbonate (soda ash) between 1200°C and 1400°C. It is a colorless compound of oxides of sodium and silica. 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 solution. Aqueous solution of sodium silicate is called water glass. Sodium silicate is stable in neutral and alkaline solutions. In acidic solutions, silicate ion reacts with hydrogen ions to form silica acid. Silica acid when heated and roasted forms silica gel—a hard, glassy substance.
Sodium silicate has numerous applications in various industries. Key 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. In addition, building materials such as concrete, stucco, and plasters when treated with sodium silicate solution helps reduce their porosity to a large extent, making them durable and water repellent. Sodium silicate is utilized as a fixative in the dyeing and coatings market. It is used as a binder in refractories and investment casting and as a polishing agent in silicon wafers. It has several other niche applications such as passive fire protection, food preservation, automotive & metal repair, and aquaculture.
Rising demand for detergents and cleaning agents is expected to augment demand for sodium silicate in the near future. Additionally, increasing demand for sodium silicate in the construction & building materials industry coupled with rising number of water treatment projects is likely to drive demand for sodium silicate during the forecast period. However, competition from substitute products such as soda ash could restrain growth of the sodium silicate market. Growing need for enhanced oil recovery (EOR) due to energy conservation policies, high fuel prices, and technological development could open up new avenues for growth of the sodium silicate market in the near future.
Detergents was the largest application segment of the sodium silicate market, accounting for over 35% of the global sodium silicate market in 2014. Elastomers are estimated to be the fastest-growing segment during the forecast period due to growth in the automotive industry. Furthermore, catalysts, food & healthcare, and other applications are likely to witness above-average growth during the forecast period.
Key players in the sodium silicate market include PQ Corporation, PPG Industries, Evonik Industries AG, BASF SE, Tokuyama Europe GmbH, and W.R. Grace & Company. Some companies in the sodium silicate market are integrated across various stages of the value chain.
Major producers of sodium silicate are expanding their operations in the international markets. Reduced demand combined with rising energy and raw materials costs have adversely impacted the chemical industry in Europe. Lower cost of production in China and other countries in Southeast Asia have prompted sodium silicate producers to set up manufacturing units in these regions and shut down their plants in Europe and North America in the past few years. Hence, demand for sodium silicate is expected to be moderate during the forecast period.