Atomic Spectroscopy: Green Tech Keeps Market in the Black

The set use of many atomic spectroscopy techniques for legally mandated environmental analysis applications should help to insulate the sector from the negative effects of the global economy. The continuing international interest in green technologies and environmental safety should also remain strong sources of growth in demand for atomic spectroscopy. The techniques most associated with environmental testing are atomic absorbance (AA), inductively coupled plasma spectroscopy (ICP), ICP-MS and the various elemental analysis techniques. Traditionally, these techniques grow at single-digit rates and this will be true in 2009 as well, although the rates will favor the lower end of that range. Of these, ICP sales will experience the lowest growth, remaining virtually flat over 2008. The fastest growing segment is in elemental analysis, where total organic carbon (TOC) continues to expand its reach into industrial markets and other types of water analysis.

Some atomic spectroscopy technologies will be affected more severely by the global economic downturn. Production of metals is likely to diminish in the short term. This will not only affect steel production for products like automobiles, but other metals as well, such as aluminum. Arc-spark spectroscopy is strongly tied to metal production and this market is forecast to fall 8%, dipping below $200 million in 2009. X-ray fluorescence (XRF) and (to a lesser extent) X-ray diffraction (XRD) also have strong ties to metals and mining, but these technologies have important applications in other areas that should moderate the negative effects. Nevertheless, although the X-ray technologies have recently grown at double-digit rates, the forecast for 2009 will fall well short of 10%. Indeed, XRF will not grow much in 2009, though this may reflect more on how good a year 2008 was for XRF. Handheld XRF has enjoyed enormous growth as it expanded the use of XRF technology into new markets, but in 2009, it may become more difficult to find new areas into which to grow. In contrast, XRD should continue to receive support from academic and government spending, making the technology the category growth leader at 7.5%.

In total, the atomic spectroscopy market was nearly $3 billion in 2008. Although arc-spark optical emission spectroscopy will suffer a significant sales decline in 2009, it is the smallest market. With most of the other technologies posting minimal gains, the overall market is forecast to grow 2.1% in 2009, buoyed primarily by XRD and elemental analysis.

The total atomic spectroscopy market is fairly consolidated, with the top five vendors combining to make up nearly half of the market. There has been a recent trend among the suppliers of X-ray instrumentation to pursue acquisitions or other business relationships in related areas of spectroscopy, primarily arc-spark. For instance, Bruker has acquired Quantron (arc-spark) (see IBO 9/15/06) and JUWE (elemental analysis) (see IBO 1/15/08), Oxford Instruments acquired WAS (arc-spark) (see IBO 7/31/07) and PANalytical has formed a close relationship with OBLF (arc-spark) (see IBO 6/30/07).

Spectris, Bruker and Rigaku, which all participate primarily in X-ray spectroscopy, hold the third through fifth spots in overall vendor share. In second place, PerkinElmer relies on its dominance in the more environmentally focused technologies: AA, ICP and ICP-MS. Thermo Fisher Scientific holds the leading position with 15% of the market. Thermo competes in all of the individual technology areas within atomic spectroscopy; a distinction it shares only with Shimadzu. More focused players dominate some markets. The prime examples would be Spectro Analytical, which leads the arc-spark market, and LECO, which rules the field of elemental analysis.

Chart: 2007–10 Total Atomic Spectroscopy Market

2007 2008 2009 2010

Millions $2858 $2958 $3019 $3295

Chart: 2008 Atomic Spectroscopy Market by Product Type


Initial Systems 2058

Aftermarket 496

Service 404

Chart: 2008 Atomic Spectroscopy Supplier Market Shares

Thermo 15%

PerkinElmer 10%

Spectris 9%

Bruker 7%

Rigaku 7%

Others 52%

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