The global silicon metal market size was valued at USD 12.4 million in 2021. It is expected to reach USD 20.60 million by 2030, growing at a CAGR of 5.8% during the forecast period (2022–2030). Silicon metal is an additive in the industry created by smelting quartz and coke in an electric heating furnace. Although it is composed of 98 percent silicon, recent years have seen an increase in the composition of silicon that has brought it closer to 99.99 percent. Iron, aluminum, and calcium are the most common impurities in silicon metals. The production of silicones, aluminum alloys, and semiconductor materials all require the use of silicon metal as a feedstock. Silicon metals are available in a wide variety of grades. Each of them is named after an industry that traditionally uses them: metallurgical, chemical, electronic, polysilicon, solar, and high purity grades.
The process of refining silica from quartz rock or sand is the first step in the creation of various grades of silicon metal. After this, the silicon is put through a hydrometallurgical process to reach the quality required for chemical use. The production of silicones and silanes relies heavily on the chemical-grade variety of silicon metal. Steel and aluminum alloys are produced using metallurgical silicon, which has a purity level of 99 percent. The global market for silicon metal is driven by several factors, including an increase in demand for aluminum alloys in the automotive industry, expanding application spectrum for silicones, demand from energy storage markets, and steady demand from the global chemical industry.
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Increasing Demand for Aluminum-Silicon Alloys (Al-Si alloys) to Impede the Market Growth
Regarding industrial applications, aluminum is alloyed with other metals to enhance the natural benefits of aluminum products. Aluminum is used in a variety of applications. When combined with silicon, aluminum can form an alloy used to produce a material that accounts for the most significant casting-manufactured materials. These alloys have a wide range of applications in the automotive and aerospace industries because of an exceptional combination of castability, mechanical properties, good corrosion resistance, and wear resistivity. This is because they are also resistant to wear and corrosion. The mechanical properties of the alloy can be improved by the addition of minor alloying elements like copper and magnesium, and the alloy can become more responsive to heat treatment.
Developing components that are lighter in weight without compromising their strength is the most effective way to achieve these goals as a material designer. Energy savings and pollution control are two goals that a material designer should strive for on an ongoing basis. As a consequence of this, Al-Si alloy is the material that is most frequently used in the aerospace industry and the automotive industry, the marine industry, and the defense industry. Al-Si alloy possesses excellent castability and weldability, high fluidity, a low thermal expansion coefficient, high specific strength, reasonable wear and corrosion resistance, and recyclability. Aluminum silicide and silicide-magnesium alloys are frequently used in shipbuilding and the production of parts for offshore platforms due to their low weight, resistance to corrosion, and excellent mechanical properties.
Number of Applications for Silicon Metal to Drive Market
Wafers of silicon are typically manufactured with the help of polysilicon, a by-product of silicon metal. Wafers made of silicon are the primary material used to produce integrated circuits, which are the structural backbone of most modern electronic devices. These devices include everything from consumer electronics to electronic systems used in industry and the military. Automakers have been forced to concentrate on developing their designs for electric vehicles due to the proliferation of electric vehicles in the mainstream automotive market. It is anticipated that this trend will lead to an increase in the demand for automotive electronics, which are expected to offer novel opportunities for the market for semiconductor-grade silicon metal. The rollout of 5G networks has been gaining steam in the telecommunications industry. In addition, developments in autonomous vehicles and the Internet of Things (IoT) have increased the demand for integrated circuits based on silicon.
High Cost of Production to Hinder Market Growth
In a Submerged Arc Furnace (SAF), a specific heating system is used to make a variety of ferroalloys using electrical power; silicon metal is produced. For example, it has advantages like easy maintenance and high productivity. A large portion of the total production cost is attributed to the energy used in the SAF's smelting process. Quartz, the raw material used in silicon metal production, must be available continuously. Few global players control the mining of quartz, which comes from ores. New players will find it challenging to afford quartz because of this. Any variation in the supply or cost of raw materials is expected to impact production. As a result, silicon metal production costs are heavily influenced by the amount of energy and carbonaceous reductants used.
Conventional methods of refining silicon to produce high purity require large amounts of electrical and thermal energy inputs. A kilogram of silicon produced using the Siemens method requires up to 200 kWh of electricity, which is more than double the amount used. Refining silicon at a high enough purity level requires a lot of energy. Because of their high cost, Silicon metal production costs are expected to restrain the market's growth during its forecast period. However, the price of silicon metal will likely have little effect on the market's growth during this forecast period, as silicon metal plays a significant role in the global manufacturing chain.
Rising Efforts to Lower the Cost of Production to Spur Market Opportunities
Conventional refining methods produce high-purity silicon and require significant electrical and thermal energy inputs. As a result, these methods have a very high energy requirement. For instance, the Siemens method requires temperatures higher than one thousand degrees Celsius and can use up to two hundred kilowatt-hours of electricity to produce one kilogram of silicon. Because of these energy requirements, refining silicon to a sufficiently high purity is costly. Therefore, there is a need to develop silicon production methods that require significantly less energy and are consequently cheaper.
Electro-refining is a new process that researchers at Arizona State University have developed. This process is used to produce ultrapure silicon. This method uses a two-step and three-electrode approach to deliver ultrapure silicon directly from metallurgical-grade silicon. It avoids using the standard Siemens process, which has several drawbacks, including the presence of corrosive trichlorosilane, a high energy requirement, and a high price tag. This process effectively removes impurities from metallurgical-grade silicon, resulting in silicon with ultrahigh purity greater than 99.99999 percent. This process requires only 20 kWh of energy input to produce one kilogram of ultrapure silicon, which is a 90 percent reduction compared to the energy input required by the Siemens method. The decrease in energy costs alone amounts to $10 for every kilogram of silicon saved. The production of solar-grade silicon metal is one possible field where this invention could be applied.
The global market for silicon metal has been divided into product types and applications.
Based on product type, the global silicon metal market has been categorized into metallurgical and chemical.
The metallurgical segment is the highest contributor to the market, growing at a CAGR of 6.2% during the forecast period. Aluminum alloys account for the majority of metallurgical silicon metal production. Lightweight vehicle components are made possible using aluminum alloys in the transportation industry. Sales of metallurgical-grade silicon used to manufacture solar cells have increased due to increased solar cell installations.
Additionally, during the forecast period, the metal industry is expected to benefit from the increasing use of metallurgical grade silicon. Because of technological advancements, the electronics industry has expanded, which has helped the metallurgical grade silicon market develop. The use of metallurgical grade silicon in the production of silicones and silanes boosts the growth of the metallurgical grade silicon market because of the wide range of applications of silicones and silanes.
The chemical segment's second-largest segment is expected to grow at a CAGR of 5.3% during the forecast period. Silicones are currently utilized in numerous important end-use industries, including those concerned with producing consumer goods, electronics, construction, and personal care products. It is anticipated that during the forecast period, a significant growth opportunity will present itself due to the rise in demand for ultra-pure silicone in various end-use industries. Because these applications require a high level of material purity, these materials are utilized extensively in photovoltaic power generation, solar panel manufacturing, and nano-electronics. In addition, ultra-pure silicon finds widespread application in the medical industry, particularly in producing medical tubing and valves, membranes, respiratory masks, and instrument handle, among other things. The product versatility of silicone products presents new opportunities to expand the market for chemical-grade silicon metal.
Based on the applications, the global silicon metal market has been categorized into aluminum alloys, silicone, and semiconductors.
The aluminum alloys segment is the highest contributor to the market, growing at a CAGR of 4.3% during the forecast period. Because alloys are used in various industries, including automotive, construction, marine, and transport, this subsegment of the silicon metal market currently holds the largest market share worldwide. Because of their superior performance, aluminum alloys are critical in the fields of both the automotive and construction industries. The automotive industry places a significant emphasis on lightening components whenever possible to improve fuel economy. Because lightweight aluminum alloys can be cast into intricate shapes, there is a possibility that they could one day replace heavier components made of cast iron and steel. Many alloys fit this description, but the AlSi variety stands out because it has superior properties. These qualities include good castability, high corrosion resistance, thermal conductivity, and machinability.
The silicone segment is the second-largest segment and is estimated to grow at a CAGR of 5.3% during the forecast period. In terms of both processing and performance, it is common knowledge that silicone outperforms traditional thermoplastics like polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polyethylene (P.E.), and polyurethane (P.U.), an ethylene-vinyl acetate. Silicone is an example. Additionally, it performs well in environmental constraints such as weathering, temperature, chemicals, and U.V. radiation. In addition, it can withstand environmental conditions. On the other hand, the emergence of natural silicone alternatives in the personal care industry is expected to slow down the industry's uptake of silicone during the forecast period. For example, INOLEX, a company based in the United States that produces cosmetic ingredients, has introduced ester-based emollients that can be used in place of silicones.
The global silicon metal market has been studied across North America, Europe, Asia-Pacific, and LAMEA.
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Asia-Pacific is the most dominant global silicon metal market, growing at a CAGR of 6.7% during the forecast period. The silicon metal market in the Asia-Pacific region is fueled by the industrial expansion of countries like India and China. Aluminum alloys are expected to play a significant role in maintaining silicon demand during the forecast period in newer packaging applications, automobiles, and electronics. Asian countries like Japan, Taiwan, and India have seen a surge in infrastructure development, which has resulted in increased sales of communication infrastructure, network hardware, and medical equipment. The demand for silicon metal increases for silicon-based materials like silicones and silicon wafers. The production of aluminum-silicon alloys is expected to rise during the forecast period due to increased Asian automobile consumption. Therefore, growth opportunities in the silicon metal market in these regions are due to the increase in automotive such as transport and passengers.
Europe is the second contributor to the market and is estimated to reach around USD 2330.68 million at a CAGR of 4.3% during the forecast period. The increase in regional automotive production is the primary driver of this region's demand for silicon metal. The European automotive industry is well-established and home to global car makers that produce vehicles for both the middle market and the high-end luxury segment. Toyota, Volkswagen, BMW, Audi, and Fiat are significant players in the automotive industry. There is expected to be a rise in demand for aluminum alloys in the region as a direct result of the rising level of manufacturing activity in the automotive, building, and aerospace industries.
Because of developments in automotive technology and the fabrication of semiconductors, each of the three nations that make up North America presents opportunities to expand the silicon metal market. There is a surge in demand for consumer electronic products like personal computers, laptops, wearable devices, artificial intelligence, voice recognition technology, game consoles, and digital cameras due to the extensive urbanization that has taken place.
LAMEA is the growing market for silicon metal. There is a good chance that investments in the automotive and electronics industries will benefit the market for silicon metal. In addition, the growing power of Latin The opportunities for business in the field of microelectronics in South America are being brought to light by American markets and the ongoing globalization of electronics manufacturing. Argentina is poised to seize significant opportunities in various manufacturing sectors, particularly those associated with high-tech industries.
The key players in the global silicon metal market included