Institute of Nanotechnology
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Nanotechnology Report

The Business Case for Indium Tin Oxide and Alternative Transparent Conductors

Category: Materials, Electronics Published: Feb 2011 View Contents
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In this report, we examine the business case for using alternative transparent conductors -- that is transparent conductors other than ITO -- in key applications including displays, lighting and photovoltaics. The materials that we consider in this report are primarily other TCOs, conductive polymers, nanosilver coatings, and nanocarbon coatings.

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We begin by taking a look at the current and future performance factors of the major alternatives to ITO and comparing them in quantitative terms with ITO. We then go on to consider how these comparisons are likely to change over time, especially given the early technology stage at which transparent conducting nanomaterials find themselves. The principal ways in which we make these comparisons is in terms of transparency, conductivity, flexibility/resiliency and cost, although we also cover other factors too.

In the second part of this report, we examine the business cases that have been made in all the applications areas in which transparent conductors are used and how these are likely to evolve over the next few years as materials and end user technologies change. In particular, we look at how the arrival of next-generation displays, solid-state lighting and new types of solar panels are shifting the balance against ITO. And we show how the relative advantages of the various transparent conductors being offered are translated into cost savings and money making opportunities in each of the applications areas being considered.

We believe that now is the time for a serious reexamination of the business cases that make the most sense in the alternative transparent conductor markets. We regard this report as especially timely as indium prices look set to rise again, both as the result of an improving economy and under pressure from Chinese supply constraints. Both technological change and economics are about to change the picture for ITO completely and with that will upset existing business cases in the transparent conductor space. With this in mind, we are publishing this report as a guide to how transparent conductor choices will be made in the future.

Our analysis draws on our deep understanding of the transparent conductor market and of the strategies of the firms seeking to supply the materials in question. This report will be essential reading for firms in the transparent conductor business, whether existing or newcomers, and whether they supply ITO or an alternative material. It will also provide valuable insight to investors in those firms, as well as firms that use ITO and seek to reduce costs by substituting another material.

In this report, we examine the business case for using alternative transparent conductors.