Cryolite is a mineral, with extremely limited natural occurrence. The mineral is chemically a double fluoride of aluminum and sodium. Cryolite was found exclusively in the west coast of Greenland, before getting exhausted in 1987. The demand for cryolite is now met by producing synthetic cryolite. Cryolite is one of the most important raw materials, for the process of extracting aluminum from its ore (alumina). The characteristics of synthetic cryolite is similar to that of the natural mineral, but synthetic cryolite often lacks the amount of sodium fluoride as observed in its natural counterpart.
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Synthetic cryolite can be obtained in a lot of ways, and the preferred mode of synthesis is determined by the availability and cost of the raw materials required. The most common method of synthesizing cryolite is by the reaction of hydrofluoric acid with alumina hydrate and soda ash. One of the primary drivers of the synthetic cryolite market is the tremendous growth in the aluminum market. Aluminum is one metal which has outpaced all others in its demand growth. Aluminum finds application in a host of end use industries such as transport, packaging, consumer goods, electrical goods, building and construction, machinery and equipments among others. Since cryolite is the principal material used in the molten electrolyte bath, for the extraction of aluminum, the growth in the aluminum market directly results in the growth in cryolite market. The demand for aluminum is generated mostly from the transport industry and packing industry.
The low weight of aluminum is the key bait for most automotive manufacturers, looking to manufacture low weight cars with high fuel efficiency. Aluminum is also in the process of gradually replacing plastics for packaging applications which is expected to drive the market for cryolite further. Apart from its use in the aluminum extraction process cryolite is also consumed by the abrasives, ceramics and glass manufacturing industries albeit in nominal quantities. It is used as opacifier in glass industry
Cryolite is added to reduce the melting point of aluminum ore as the melting point of cryolite is 1009° C. This allows the process to take place at 920° C to 1000° C. However research is on to find other ways of extracting aluminum and reduce the temperature requirement. Although success of such process is indefinite, replacement of cryolite in aluminum extraction process might be the biggest threat to the market and might lead to extinction. The fluctuating price of aluminum is another restraint for the cryolite market as heavy price fluctuations have the potential to adversely affect the end use industries.
More than 60 % of the global demand for aluminum is derived from Asia Pacific with China leading demand with about 45% of the global demand. Europe and North America account for about 30% of the global demand cumulatively. The demand for cryolite exhibits a similar trend. China is the largest producer and consumer of synthetic cryolite. India and the U.S. also manufacture substantial quantities of synthetic cryolite.
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This market is characterized by high degree of competition among manufacturers, and it is a price sensitive market. Some of the major players in the synthetic cryolite market are Fluorsid S.p.A, S.B.Chemicals, Do Fluoride Chemicals Co., Ltd., Yuzhou Deyi Chemical Co. Ltd, Henan Buckton Industry&Commerce Co., Ltd, Zhengzhou Flworld Chemical Co., Ltd and Xinhai Chemicals Co., Ltd among many others.