With technology, industry and society developing rapidly in many different ways, the likelihood for new commodities to start being traded on the world’s commodity exchanges is high. Not only will the advance of technology mean that familiar materials will begin to be regarded not just as items to be traded but as basic commodities; also, new materials will be developed that will become essential to various industries so quickly that soon after invention or implementation they will gain the status of commodities, and will be traded on the global commodity market.
There is no restriction to the area in which these new commodities may occur: they may come from any area of science or industry. However, it is reasonable to assume that it is unlikely that new basic foodstuffs will arise to become commodities: it is much more likely that materials involved in building new technology will be the commodities of the future. Three examples of such commodities are nanomaterials, polyethylene and polypropylene.
Nanomaterials is a catch-all term for various materials and components that serve as the building blocks for various applications from the field of nanotechnology. Though still in its infancy, nanotechnology has applications across the fields of science, technology and industry: if the vast benefits it promises are to be realised, then nanomaterials will have to be available cheaply and in large amounts. They will also have to be traded quickly and efficiently. The establishment of a set of standards, and an exchange, to enable nanomaterials to be traded as commodities is a sign that these requirements are being realised. The new commodity exchange enabling the trading of nanomaterials as commodities, the Integrated Nano-Science and Commodity Exchange (INSCX), is due to launch in the first quarter of 2011.
Polyethylene, a thermoplastic polymer more familiarly known as polythene, is a substance that has impacted many areas of modern life. Its applications include food preservation and packaging, bags, clothing, film, machine parts, plastic bottles, pipes, bubble wrap and more, and its trading as a commodity is essential for the efficient functioning of the producers of these varied products. Its main centre of trading is the London Metal Exchange (LME), where the version of polythene known as linear low density polyethylene is available. Four separate commodities are available, the only difference between them being that they are deliverable globally, or in North America, Europe and Asia. The standard contract size is 24.75 tonnes.
Polypropylene is another thermoplastic polymer that is traded on the London Metal Exchange. Like polyethylene, it is used in a wide variety of industrial and commercial applications. These applications include various electronic uses, hardwearing plastic containers, one-piece hinges on bottles and boxes, furniture, carpets, shock absorbing, hobby modelling and more. On the LME polypropylene (subtitled ‘homopolymer general purpose injection moulding grade’ on the exchange) is traded in a number of grades: the grade depends on the plastic’s melt flow rate, and as with polyethylene it is deliverable across the world in contract sizes of 24.75 tonnes.
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