Lead is a heavy metal and has several useful mechanical properties including high density, low melting point, ductility, and relative inertness. Lead is a chemical element with the atomic number 82. It has the highest atomic number of any stable element. Lead is soft and malleable, and has a relatively low melting point. When freshly cut, lead is bluish-white; it tarnishes to a dull gray color when exposed to air. Lead is weak and has metallic character which is illustrated by its amphoteric nature. Lead and lead oxides react with acids and bases, and tends to form covalent bonds. Lead is easily extracted from its ores. Lead's high density, low melting point, ductility and relative inertness to oxidation make it useful. These properties, combined with its relative abundance and low cost, resulted in its extensive use in construction, plumbing, batteries, bullets and shot, weights, solders, pewters, fusible alloys, white paints, leaded gasoline, and radiation shielding.
Lead is widely used in batteries, cable sheaths, machinery manufacturing, shipbuilding, light industry, lead oxide, radiation protection, and other industries. The primary application for lead is in the battery production industry. In the past, lead was used in the cable sheath industry; however, its high density and toxicity led to it being gradually replaced by plastic and other materials. Lead is used in the manufacture of bearing alloys, solder alloys, and abrasive alloys that are employed in the manufacturing of machinery. Lead possesses good corrosion resistance properties, and hence, it can be used in the manufacture of lead plate, plumbing, and other alloy materials to protect ships from marine corrosion in shipbuilding. Lead oxide is primarily utilized for battery paste in lead-acid batteries, as well as in the production of plastic stabilizers, rubber vulcanization agents, ceramic glaze additives, ray proof glass, optical glass and crystal glass, and various kinds of paints, coatings, etc. It is utilized by hospital personnel and other workers who work in high radiation environment in order to protect against the harmful effects of radiation. Additionally, lead can also be employed in the post and telecommunications industries, metallurgy, chemical, railways, transportation, construction, weapons, aerospace, aviation, oil and other industries.
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Lead acid batteries are predominantly used in automobiles such as passenger cars, commercial cars, and motorcycles. Rapid urbanization and industrialization in various developing countries across the globe are major factors driving the lead market. Increase in requirement of uninterrupted power supply in industries, corporate offices, hospitals, research institutions, educational institutes, and houses further boosts the demand for these batteries. Implementation of smart grid projects, deployment of vehicle charging infrastructure, increasing usage of hybrid and electric vehicles, and increasing installation of renewable energy systems are some of the underlying demand drivers for the global lead market. Several government regulations on the usage of the lead in paints and industries due to its adverse environmental impact has hampered the growth of the lead market.
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In terms of geography, the lead market can be segmented into North America, Europe, Asia Pacific, Latin America, and Middle East & Africa. Asia Pacific dominates the global market followed by North America and Europe. The market in Asia Pacific is dominant due to the usage of the lead acid battery in this developing region.
Key players operating in the lead market are Inventive SMi, Gravita India Ltd., Vulcan GMS U.S., Telegenisys Inc., and The Lead Generation Company.