Executive Summary

What constitutes a vision? It is nothing but dream in the backdrop of hard core facts, figures and knowledge. This has been precisely the driving force behind this mammoth exercise of drawing up a Technology Road Map for India. The dreamers included stalwarts in the field of metals & materials, who collected, collated and commented on the current scenario of the respective materials and looked ahead for another twenty years or so. Putting all their efforts together, a snapshot of the technology roadmap on Materials is presented in the subsequent sections.

Metallic Materials :
The metals that have been covered in this chapter are Aluminium, Copper, Lead & Zinc, Steel, Titanium, Rare Earth Materials; the prospects of the Mining sector and that of material selection have also been discussed along with suggestions for implementation. The structure of this section is broadly built upon 5 subtopics viz. i) Current usage ii) Reserves iii) Pain areas & Wish List iv) Global & Indian scenario v) Recommendations for bridging the gap. It assumes a few basic hypotheses on population, demand, depleting resource, environment and manpower.

Steel industry in India is a force to reckon with because of not only the increasing production capacity, but also for the huge reserves of raw material, untapped rural market and the potential of immense growth in the populous country. Constraints such as lack of technological breakthrough, shortage of quality ores, environmental hazards associated with traditional routes of steel production, topped up with dumping of cheap material from China have been thwarting the growth of the steel sector, the expanding sponge iron production along with beneficiation of ores, pollicisation, agglomeration have stood the industry in good stead. For technological advancement in the new product front, development of special steel grades mainly for the Automobile industry and creation of world class R & D centres with pilot facilities are the likely enablers. R & D needs a strong boost for overall development. The chapter includes a comprehensive list of short term, medium term & long term projects for growth of Steel industry with benchmarks of efficiency, specific energy & utility consumption. The factors that will rule over others in determining the future of this metal in the long run are strength, environmental sustainability, long life and innovative usage.

Used extensively in construction, transportation, power and packaging, it is globally the fastest growing metal; the Indian growth rate is higher than the global average. Emerging usage in fields like aviation, solar cell & electronics will sustain its growth rate. The energy intensive manufacturing process of this metal has all along been a big concern. Hence the role of recycled/ secondary Al is likely to become more dominating in coming years.

A common metal with versatile usage in pure & alloy form is in increasing demand from the Power, Transport, Air-conditioning & Construction sectors; its newer usage includes bio-medical sector, hybrid vehicles, data transmission etc. India is somewhat handicapped regarding its reserve, processing capacity and recycling facility, while cheap dumping from countries like China is further aggravating the situation.

Since Zn protects steel, hot dip Zn & Zn-alloy coating on steel surface is the most common area for growing use of zinc. While construction, building and infrastructure sectors will prompt increasing use of zinc, zinc die castings and coated steel will occupy larger share in automobile sector. The production process for Zn is likely to change gradually for higher efficiency and environmental considerations, as emerging usage like Dye Sensitised Solar Cells, ZnO nano-wires (as sensors) and galvanised rebars in construction will further drive its demand. Different types of zinc batteries (with Carbon/Chorine/ Air/ Alkali/ Silver etc) hold further potential for this metal. The recyclability factor will in addition weigh heavily in favour of conservation of zinc resources.

Though its usage has been narrowing down for health hazards & environmental reasons, lead industry has been growing albeit sluggishly. With increasing emphasis on curbing air pollution from automobile emissions, electric vehicles will be more popular and lead batteries will be in demand for vehicle propulsion, probably with reducing amount of lead, (e.g. Ultra-battery, or the Pb-Ca battery) recycling will also contribute towards resource conservation.

This environmentally friendly ‘metal of the future’ has been gaining importance in applications in Defence, Navy, Aerospace, Medical, Engineering and other emerging fields. This is mainly due to its unique properties like excellent corrosion resistance, which along with bio-compatibility and recyclability are likely to help Titanium penetrate newer areas in engineering industry over & above power plants and desalination systems. Though India has a reasonably good resources of the raw material, its processing demands high level of technological perfection & is energy intensive. Mainly (95%) used in the form of alloy and compounds, Titanium industry has a long way to go in India; scopes therefore are large for exploring newer usage and overall development.

This relatively new field is opening newer possibilities for applications in fields like Energy, Catalysts, Laser, Fibre Optics, Glass polishing, Electronics and Ceramics. Phosphors and Magnets for Hybrid Electric Vehicles are two major applications for REM in the years to come, as gadgets get miniaturised and promote green technology. While China has been controlling REM production and supply in the global market, the number of Patents on REM from Japan (70%) has been the highest in recent times. Though institutes like BARC or IREL in India have started developing new process and new products, the scenario is not yet promising considering the extraction technology or the manufacturing knowhow.

With 87 minerals and nearly 2700 reported mines in India, this sector in India has a huge potential. Some of the challenges for Indian Mining industry are rising input costs, land & its allocation, logistics, degrading quality of ores, lack of proper database & of qualified manpower and unknown number of illegal & small mines. The needs of the day in this sector in India are new geography, new equipment and new technology for exploration and proper utilisation of the resources available. Robotics and Simulation technology are coming in a big way, but all these presuppose a lot of support from the Government. Indian Mining industry may not thrive without these enablers,.

The important factors in shaping the future of metals in India include Energy and the Environment, including the 3 R’s like viz. Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Newer tools and techniques such as Life Cycle Analysis, and curves like the Ashby curves on strength, energy, density, diffusivity & conductivity will be increasingly used for material selection. On the academic/research front, redesigning the academic curriculum, enthusing the engineering entrants for a rewarding and enriching career in metals and metallurgy, developing effective platforms for industry-academic interaction and strengthening the R & D base of industry are the main enablers to ensure a long and sustainable future for metals in general.

New emerging metastable metallic materials in the form of nanocrystalline and metallic glasses are of recent interest and will be commercially available with next decade. The functional properties of these materials can be wisely tuned by altering microstructure. However, the process methodology and product dimensions impose restriction in large-scale product which is likely to be solved by upcoming advanced techniques like additive manufacturing.

Electronic & Energy materials:
Electronic & energy materials are closely connected with Information Technology, Communication technology and Renewable Energy. Therefore for any country, E & E materials-based industry is one of the key drivers for its development and economic growth. Micro-electronics, Communication, Display and Photo-voltaic are the most important areas for Electronic materials, where future research, development and demonstration will take place. The most important sub-areas among them will be Silicon, Organic Materials, Wide band semi-conductors and Graphene. Since India has till now failed to catch up with the global Silicon industry, it is all the more important to have a more focussed and dedicated approach than what we have now, to secure a position in the global field of E & E materials.

Out of these, Silicon is likely to rule the market for another two decades, in a host of different forms, especially along with the growth of solar energy. However, the disruptive technology like Graphene has the potential for replacing Silicon, because of its superior properties like high charge-carrying ability and high heat dissipation power. The Photovoltaic industry is also likely to grow to the extent of 30% above current level in another 20 years, mainly in the domain of energy generation.

Wideband semi-conductors like Gallium Nitride have large transparency zone covering visible and near infrared zones and are materials for future technology of Transparent Electronics, where high optical transmittance is of prime importance. Materials like Ga-doped ZnO, or Al-doped ZnO are likely to play a significant role in solar panels, displays and windows, with a high degree of multi-functionality; it is therefore important for India to stress on R & D on ZnO based electronics.

An emerging technology in Micro/Nano-electronics is organic electronics where OTFTs and OLEDs are replacing the conventional transistors and displays and they are more efficient for industrial applications like lighting, mobile phones & other consumer goods. E-paper is also a promising application of organic electronics that in future can replace the printed page with its added advantages of being thin, portable, flexible and reusable. Among other potential technology, Spintronics (using electrons’ ability to spin) offers lower power consumption,higher density computation and storage, but road map is to be deployed to explore the material.

Materials for application in the Energy sector are fundamentally for Solar Energy, Energy harvesting, higher efficiency storage batteries and Fuel Cells. Out of these, Silicon again plays the most important role, for solar energy, though Graphene holds a higher potential. For energy harvesting, thermo-electric materials hold the key to power generation from waste heat, thus making it immensely promising for the automobile sector in particular. As energy supply dwindles, electric vehicles would more and more depend on efficient storage batteries with higher storage capacity, like Li-ion, or LiFePO4 batteries, Zn-Air batteries or Fuel-Cell type ones; they offer higher energy density, longer & higher storage, low cost and quick recharging facility. Pure fuel cells are also in the reckoning because of their high quality of power, fuel flexibility, durability and energy security; these are used mainly in passenger vehicles, but also as stationary power generators. Different designs of fuel cells exist and new ones are being developed depending based on their chemistry, operating range and applications.

As Blue Sky Research areas in this field, we can foresee advent of the e-paint display doing away with formal screens and solar power generation from external walls, windows and even roads as well as conversion of CO2 and H2O into possible fuels for the future, thus partly alleviating the threat of the depleting resources.

Glass and Ceramics:

The inherent properties of glass & ceramics, along with the bourgeoning middle class population with rising quality of life are likely to push up their production, usage and development. The Indian growth rate of this industry is already above the global average; emerging sectors like healthcare, nano-ceramics, alternative energy like solar, wind & nuclear, green buildings, functional and nano-coatings are going to be the future drivers in this domain. Rising life expectancy is also driving the development of products for geriatric care. Newer health-care products as well as synthetic ceramic grafts, permanent ceramic fixtures and mechano-adaptive systems are what all will drive a part of the new regime, provided there is a higher degree of awareness across the society about hygiene; innovations like digital printing, nano-coating and 3-D tiles will simultaneously create novel areas of development.

Concerns about depleting natural resources including degrading quality of environment are likely to push innovations in process and product technology. While plastics and aluminium are strong contenders to glass for packaging, the four sectors of glass, viz. Container G’, Flat G’, Specialty G’ and Fibre G’ have been of late witnessing increasing but varying growth rates. Apart from the traditional ceramics based on clay, like sanitary, tiles and insulators, advanced ceramics sector is more likely to boost the growth in related fields.

While China leads the world in per capita glass consumption and production, India has potential to grow in the fields of special glass products like CRT, PDP, FED, SFT & LFT and new smart glass products like self-cleaning G’, electro-chronic windows, low emissivity (?) glass, light control G’ etc. In the field of Advanced Ceramics, some of the emerging and promising fields are mainly Bio-Ceramics, Ceramic Matrix Composites & Ceramic substrate technology for microelectronics.

In the conventional fields like Refractory, the use of monolithic refractory is substantially increasing; but the supply of quality raw materials in general is on the wane and India increasingly depends on both beneficiated and imported raw materials. This points towards the possibility of replacements by non-oxide materials like graphite, or SiC/SiC composites for special applications.

This chapter comprehensibly presents a summary of Short Term, Medium Term and Long Term technologies in Product and Process development with the current status, its challenges and the proposed technical solutions.
Polymers and Composites:
Production and consumption of Polymers are continuously on the increase in fields like textiles, packaging, furniture, semiconductors, electrical devices, insulators etc due to their unique set of properties like strength, stiffness, light weight, inert nature, low conductivity and easy processing technologies. By careful designing of fillers, and/or matrix, additional appropriate functionalities can be added. While some basic research is going on in leading national institutions in India, there is not much progress on technical development of product, processor technology transfer.

The major types of Polymers in use today include Poly Ethylene, Poly Propylene, PVC, PS and PET. Though packaging (in food, beverage, retail and pharmaceuticals) along with auto-sector continues to dominate the overall polymer usage, newer products like polymer composites are also finding customer base in Automobile, Aviation, Bio-medical, Chemical, Building and Renewable Energy sectors. Fibre (glass/carbon) reinforced polymer composites are finding increasing use in some of these sectors, indicating a larger market penetration by nano-composites in near future. Though manufacturing process of polymers in India matches the world benchmark, processing of polymers and composites needs to catch up technically.

A potential area for polymer use is “Plasticulture”, where polymeric products are used in agriculture like irrigation, mulching, green houses. Spread of global awareness on environmental issues is likely to direct the development and innovation in Polymers towards bio-compatibility or sustainability, ensuring bio-degradability of all upcoming products like:


  • Flame retardant products for building, trains, transport vehicles etc,
  • LED, LCD, PDP, Solar panels for Electronics/Energy
  • Advanced coatings on polymer films for Packaging
  • Disposable medical gadgets, artificial organs, biomedical implants
  • Conductive & Electro-active polymers for Electrical/ Electronics
  • High performance polymers & composites

Future of Polymers will however increasingly depend on synergy with nano-technology, expected to revolutionise composites in their multi-functionality and applications, with bio-degradability in focus. However the main challenges facing Indian Polymer industry will be i) fighting too many small scale units leading to high fragmentation, ii) Lack of proper R & D, leading to inadequate technological strength and iii) Shortage of qualified technologists and skilled manpower. The environmental load of the polymer-wastes is a grave global challenge.

With these challenges to tackle in the coming twenty years or so, the implementation strategy in India, specifically for polymers and composites industry should include technology development and value chain, retention of talented workforce and availability of adequate funds and policy support.

Bio-materials until now are natural or synthetic materials mainly used in medical applications like orthopedic, dental and spinal treatments. Essential requirements include bio-compatibility, long life along with safety and performance efficiency. With the advent of time, the interface with multi-disciplinary technologies will increase and the ambit of bio-materials has been surpassing the domain of devices, embracing regenerative medicines, cell therapeutics, tissue engineering, gene delivery, personal medicines and many more that will enlarge its scope.

As the importance of health-care solutions increases simultaneously with the burden of disease across the globe, bio-materials are bound to play a much more important role in areas like cardiac, neurological, geriatric and trauma care. Use of traditional materials like glass & ceramics, or of metals like advanced stainless Steels, Cobalt-Chromium alloys, Silver, Gold or Platinum along with functionalised surface-coatings or of advanced materials like Carbon-based, Supra-molecular, Peptide or DNA based ones, will expand the capability matrix for the bio-materials. However, the four factors viz. Education, Research, Market and Regulations will continue dictating the developments in this field. The importance of research and development will always be topping the list, with an ongoing focus on continuous innovation leading discoveries to proven technologies. However, joint efforts on Public-Private partnership and development of newly trained competent manpower through formal academic route will also govern the success of the endeavours. Even if human life cannot be infinitely prolonged, or a medicine discovered for eternal youth, many unsolved and scary problems can be addressed by the emerging Bio-Materials. On the whole, considering the likely quantitative growth in population, health risks, accidents, injuries etc, the use of biomaterials will increase manifold by 2035, entering new vistas.

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