NanoMarkets provides market research and industry analysis of opportunities within advanced materials and emerging energy and electronics markets
The current generation of cadmium-based QDs will continue to be a cause of concern due to the critical environmental and health hazards. While cadmium-based QDs are of greatest concern in biomedical applications, the display and lighting industry is not ignoring this issue. As mentioned above, there has been a concerted effort to make a paradigm shift to non-heavy metal-based QDs that are relatively less toxic in nature.
OLEDs are another opportunity that NanoMarkets sees that TC firms can pursue. ITO is used almost exclusively in OLEDs at the present time, but there is a consensus that alternative TCs might do a better job, because ITO is not well suited to use with active OLED materials or with large panels such as OLED TVs and lighting. In addition, OLEDs seem to represent an opportunity for alternative TCs, because, unlike LCDs, this sector has yet to adopt a mature manufacturing infrastructure. By contrast, as we note throughout this report, LCD manufacturing has established manufacturing processes and materials; it won’t let go of ITO easily.
The future for TCs in the solar-panel sector depends heavily on the future of the PV industry generally and of the thin-film PV (TFPV) sector in particular. TFPV is especially important because it makes use of a disproportionate amount of transparent conductor. So a swing back to using crystalline silicon panels would be bad news for the TC sector.
TC firms—as far as we can tell—have never seen the solar sector as one of the most attractive opportunities, primarily because it is much more cost sensitive than the display sector and always will be. Also the largest share of the solar panel industry—CSi panels—has minimal needs for TCs. However, TC firms were attracted to this sector by the fact that (1) it was growing very fast and (2) wasn’t stuck on ITO; indeed it had largely abandoned it.
The state of the PV sector: Most of the positive assessments that the TC sector made for solar seem to have been shattered recently; the solar panel industry has gone through major ups and downs in the past few years. After a few years of boom, the industry succumbed to a bout of major price cutting begun as the result of Chinese industrial policy, which in the end hurt Chinese firms too. However, according to most accounts the PV sector is on the mend, although growth in this sector will probably be in the (high) single digits for the next few years. So this is good news for the TC industry in a generalized sort of way.
Despite the growing interest in the lighting industry in QDs as a possible next step beyond LEDs, manufacturers and the scientific community have yet to make any significant impact in the QD lighting space. Thus, QD manufacturers need to scientifically establish and cross the cost-benefit barrier established by LEDs in order to be competitive in the lighting segment.
NanoMarkets believes that, given the right incentives, QD lighting solution providers have the potential to come up with innovative and cost-effective fabrication techniques for the production of commercial products. NanoMarkets also feels that the significant regulatory push towards rapid adoption of LEDs in the coming years will create an ideal market for QD-based lighting solution providers.
September 24, 2013 Category: Advanced Materials
The success patterns in the TC space have changed enough over the past year for NanoMarkets to expect that they will begin to change again before this market matures. One open question is how far conductive polymers can go in this space. They have done quite well so far; their advocates being well aware of their limitations and successfully targeting low-end applications where the cost of polymers is a genuine competitive advantage.
Something similar can also be said about non-ITO TCOs. Because of the ability to be a drop in replacement for ITO in the LCD sector, it has been suggested that these may make a success ITO replacement. But attempts to use zinc oxide variants instead of ITO a few years ago have been largely unsuccessful, so we are dubious about what the future hold in this regard.
Quantum dots (QDs) are likely to be the next big thing that is going to shape the modern display and lighting industries. Because of their ability to emit pure colors and offer superior benefits, such as improved energy-efficiency and extended lifetimes, QDs have slowly begun to penetrate the commercial display market as original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) seek to differentiate their products and entice consumers with enhanced visual experiences in a cost-effective manner.
Although the QD community is making continuous efforts to expand the scope of the application of these nanoparticles outside of these two industries, NanoMarkets believes that QDs are most likely to find greater acceptance in the display and lighting markets in the coming years.