NanoMarkets provides market research and industry analysis of opportunities within advanced materials and emerging energy and electronics markets
Smart coatings on glass and other substrates have the potential to create added value in a huge range of applications, but this can only be realized if they can provide sufficient performance enhancement at the right price. In the energy industry, the key driver is the desire to improve energy efficiency, and this is especially true in the renewable energy sector. We expect to see increased demand for coatings for solar panels and wind turbines as photovoltaics (PV) and wind energy become more prevalent and improved efficiency and low maintenance costs become increasingly important.
Photochromic materials have been used for many years in self-dimming sunglasses, so it might seem natural for them to make the leap and start appearing in smart windows in automobiles and buildings. There are some very good reasons why this hasn’t happened so far, and why photochromic windows may not ever take an important share of the smart windows market.
NanoMarkets believes that quantum dots have developed to the point where they can be a useful tool in the constant struggle of television display makers to stand out in the marketplace. Although barely out of the R&D phase, quantum dots (QDs) do offer some compelling reasons for adoption in a market that sometimes seems to be very good at offering new technologies and not so good at making them succeed.
January 21, 2014 Category: Renewable Energy
The last couple of years have been quite interesting for third-generation photovoltaic PV technology. Significant advances have taken place not only with respect to lab-scale cell efficiencies, but also on the commercialization front. As a result, a number of commercial providers have the potential to supply DSC panels in the near future.
However, the financial difficulties faced by the PV industry in recent times have cast suspicion on the long-term viability of both large and small firms. Nevertheless, there is scope for further improvement in the efficiency of lab-scale DSCs that already are competitive with amorphous silicon (a-Si) cells (~15 percent).
The changing dynamics in the global PV industry have led DSC manufacturers to seek solace in more economically resilient off-grid applications. Building-integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) applications and low-light driven DSC solutions for consumer electronics are increasingly being seen as the largest potential markets for DSC. In fact, the first commercialized DSC products were flexible keyboards and portable battery chargers.
Until very recently, the addressable market for smart auto glass has never seemed to extend much beyond luxury vehicles or (in a few cases) car enthusiasts who buy aftermarket products. And the low performance of many smart auto glass products makes it quite difficult for many smart auto glass products to penetrate to any great degree even the small addressable markets.
This rather pessimistic appraisal of the here and now for smart auto glass seems to contrast with the high level of interest that NanoMarkets is seeing in smart auto glass at major glass makers, electronics firms, and car companies.
January 09, 2014 Category: Advanced Materials
NanoMarkets believes that LED phosphors will continue to play a major role in the development of the LED lighting market. In particular, we think that the use of phosphors in applications such as traffic lights and exit signs will become key drivers for the phosphor market.
More generally, we expect in LED applications where a lower cost per lumen, a high CRI, and a lower cost of ownership can be demonstrated, phosphor penetration will continue to grow. We also think that phosphor choice may help reduce consumer perception of LED lamps as being cold, dull, and above all, unaffordable.
January 07, 2014 Category: Emerging Electronics
NanoMarkets believes that transparent displays represent a substantial opportunity over the next decade. However, we do caution that both the market and technical risks are quite daunting in our opinion.
The market risks are high because there is not a full understanding of how transparent displays fit into the retail and advertising market going forward. Even more uncertain are the prospects for AR, a primarily software-based technology that is fueling much of the current attention in transparent displays.
December 03, 2013 Category: Emerging Electronics
To date, the history of thin-film and printed batteries has not been an entirely happy one. Both RFIDs and medical/cosmetic patches have failed to live up to the “killer app” expectations of the thin battery sector. And there are now perhaps 40 percent fewer firms making thin batteries than there was when NanoMarkets started covering this sector.
In this environment, one might be forgiven for condemning thin batteries as a technology in search of an application. And even if one considers smart cards, the one area where thin batteries have achieved some traction, it is hard to think of the battery firms creating large amounts of value. A CEO of a thin battery firm seeking that IPO down the road doesn’t have much to hang his or her hat on.
But although still in the making, NanoMarkets points to wearable and flexible products as well as devices connected to the “Internet-of-Things” that potentially offer a large market for thin batteries going forward; big enough to make the whole thin battery opportunity much more worth pursuing than ever before.
If this proves to be the case, the disappointments around RFID, patches and the like can be forgotten. These new wearable and flexible and “IoT”-oriented products could well give the market for printed and thin-film batteries a new lease on life.
The reason for NanoMarkets being bullish on smart windows in this sense is primarily our belief that there are widespread consumer expectations that the real price of energy will continue to rise for years to come. This will promote the sales of products that promote energy savings; smart windows being one such product type. Buildings need smart windows to comply with LEED or zero-energy requirements. Automobiles adopt smart windows to keep interiors cool and cut down on the need for air-conditioning on sunny days, while letting as much light as possible through on gloomy ones.
We expect these novel market drivers for smart windows to combine with more traditional ones—especially the need to reduce glare in the summer while not obscuring visibility in the winter. But the new market drivers for smart windows based on energy prices, NanoMarkets believes, will help grow the smart windows business dramatically.
For smart windows to replace dumb ones, they are going to have to achieve improved price points. And the business models adopted by smart windows suppliers are going to have to recognize where the opportunities are and where they are not.