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Nanotechnology Report

Transparent Conductive Films for Flexible Electronics 2010-2020

Transparent Conductive Films for Flexible Electronics 2010-2020
Category: Electronics Published: Oct 2009 Pages: 97 View Contents
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Electronic copies include a five user licence. Contact andrew.stewart@nano.org.uk for more information.

This report focuses on the requirements and achievements to date on the topic of flexible transparent conductors, where high transparency and high conductivity are required. Worldwide research and design efforts are presented, both from research institutes and companies that are developing the necessary materials and processes. Several technical solutions available are compared, and forecasts are given for the next 10 years.

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The importance of Transparent Conductive Films (TCF)

Increasingly more and more flexible devices are required, from flexible displays for e-readers, OLEDs and other types to flexible photovoltaics and beyond. These devices require a conductor to close the layers of active materials, but that conductor needs to be transparent in applications such as displays and photovoltaics to allow light through. Today, transparent conductive oxides are widely used for rigid devices but these will become more expensive due to rare materials used, and are inadequate for most flexible electronics applications where they can easily crack under little strain. Alternatives are sought.

The main materials available for this purpose are:

  • Transparent conductive oxides (TCOs)
  • Organic materials, such as the most common PEDOT:PSS
  • Carbon nanotubes (CNT) and graphene

Each have trade-offs between conductivity, transmittance, and flexibility. Each can be patterned in different ways. While sputtering will remain an important and high-volume technology for coating of rigid substrates like glass, solution-based processes including printing and the use of organic and nanoparticle materials have already gained a lot of traction and are expected to dominate the market for the flexible applications within a few years. Significant new developments are being made with both the materials used and how they can be deposited. This report addresses the performance of the different options and profiles organizations around the world that are developing better solutions.

The biggest opportunity

In 2020, the biggest opportunity is for flexible OLEDs and flexible photovoltaics - however, both lack appropriate, low cost flexible barriers today, which delays the market penetration.

While ESD (electro static discharge) applications have moderate requirements concerning the properties of TCFs, demands in devices such as OLEDs are more complex. The main reason is that in that case, not only the standard properties as conductivity, transmittance and flexibility are important, but the interactions with other layers play an important role, namely charge carrier injection. In addition, for large area devices, homogeneity is more critical, especially when it comes to display and lighting applications. The human eye is more sensitive to changes in brightness than to changes in colour, and brightness of an light emitting device depends on the electrical conditions - voltage in the case of inorganic electroluminescence, current flow in the case of electrochromic and light-emitting semiconductors.

Market forecasts 2010-2020

This report finds that the market for TCFs will be $0.24 million in 2010 - mainly used in research and development and used in small quantities for commercial devices. By 2017 TCFs will become a billion dollar market for printed and potentially printed electronics, reaching $3.39 billion in 2020, mainly due to photovoltaics and OLED displays. The report gives forecasts by component for ten years.

Who should buy this report

For those that seek to address opportunities in this field, learn the latest progress from around the world, the challenges and market potential, this report is a must. Activities of 35 organizations from across the globe are covered.

By 2017 TCFs will become a billion dollar market for printed and potentially printed electronics