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Smart city materials $400bn market

14th December 2020
Lanna Cooper

Smart cities are now much more ambitious. That means new materials are their biggest enabler, with information and computer technology dropping to an important support role. The major new IDTechEx report, 'Smart Cities Emerging Materials Markets 2021-2041' explains.

Consider the $0.5 trillion NEOM smart city being reclaimed from the Saudi desert and the $0.1 trillion Forest City being reclaimed from the Malaysian sea. They will gain energy, food and water independence, zero emissions, resilience and verdant, affordable, delightful living from next-generation materials and good design. Forest City names smart materials as pivotal.

Raghu Das, CEO of IDTechEx advised: "Of the trillions of dollars being spent on smart cities, the advanced materials part is rising to hundreds of billions yearly over the next twenty years. Newly multipurpose buildings make food and surplus energy, eventually with no service infrastructure to them because they treat sewage, for example, and are otherwise independent."

He added: "Multifunctional infrastructure, equipment, and materials are making possible independence in city energy, food, and water with zero-emissions, greater security and empowerment of the disadvantaged with free travel, electricity 'too cheap to metre'. Welcome the wooden high-rise building but also the 3D printing of buildings using mud, trash, or green concrete. 3DP vehicles arrive, such as the Olli robot shuttle replacing ten existing vehicle types. 3D parts even use metals, inorganics, and composites, even creating 3D printed electronics nowadays."

Das believed: "Smart cities will widely deploy multifunctional composites, structural electronics, smart glass, flexible glass and transparent electronic-electric plastic such as headlamp RadarGlass. A smart window can have a large microLED display, darken when the sun shines, saving air conditioning, heat insulate and make electricity at the same time. Bear in mind that residential and commercial buildings currently use 74% of all electricity and 39% of all energy in the United States, most of that for heating and cooling. That could be zero."

Green concrete, newly possible recycling (wind turbine blades, fluoropolymers, batteries) collapse the 16% of global warming caused by regular concrete and steel. Partly, this is because they eliminate massive tidal barrages, power stations, hydro dams outside cities, and toxigens. Grasp the flexible organics, membranes, bioplastics, advanced polymers, thermal interface materials, thermal insulation, 2D and 3D molecules, graphene, CNT, materials for 5G, 6G, and THz electronics.

A huge $35bn market is ahead for the varied materials providing ubiquitous photovoltaic power that silicon cannot serve. For example, a high rise will have those solar windows hopefully with something less toxic than methylammonium borate on lead perovskite, but the façade and roof would be different. Lightweight flexible copper indium gallium diselenide facades are already a multi-billion dollar business, with ones eliminating the tiny amount of cadmium yet gaining best silicon-level efficiency are on the way. However, the roof may justify sun-tracking multi-junction lll-V compounds twice the amount of electricity per unit of area.

The IDTechEx multilingual, PhD level analysts have identified over 50 gaps in the market for smart city materials, many of which are capable of creating billion-dollar businesses. Examples include photovoltaic paint that is non-toxic, unlike the three routes being pursued today, solar roads not trashed by traffic, and wave power not trashed by storms. Self-healing vehicle bodywork making and storing electricity and glowing in the dark? No, not a silly dream but well-funded serious research projects. From the vehicle viewpoint, they call that 'massless energy'.

Over 200 companies develop vertical takeoff city air taxis, but their autonomy systems are too expensive and their batteries are inadequate, making them fall out of the sky in only one hour or so. Those are materials' challenges, and they will be solved with such things as solid-state LIDAR and lithium-metal batteries. The 20 year forecasts, roadmaps, and analysis can only be found in the IDTechEx report, 'Smart Cities Emerging Materials Markets 2021-2041'. There are even drill-down reports on most aspects for those who want to go even deeper as they create new billion-dollar businesses in city materials of the future.

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