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REPORT # Nano-350 PUBLISHED February 10, 2011
The Business Case for Indium Tin Oxide and Alternative Transparent Conductors
  • Advanced Materials
  • Emerging Electronics
    Register for NanoMarkets' Q&A Teleconference on Transparent Conductor Markets:  (click here)
    In this report, NanoMarkets examines 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.
    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.
    NanoMarkets believes 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 NanoMarkets’ 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.
    Executive Summary
    E.1 Why the Old Business Cases for ITO Alternatives are Not Enough
    E.1.1 ITO and Costs:  The Real Story
    E.1.2 Why ITO Alternatives Have Never Made Money
    E.2  Components of the New Business Case for ITO Alternatives
    E.2.1 Business Cases for Mature Alternatives:  TCOs and Polymers
    E.2.2 Business Cases for Transparent Conductive Nanomaterials
    E.3 Who Will Be the Early Adopters of Nanomaterial-Based Transparent Conductors?
    E.4 Selling Manufacturers on the Benefits of Alternative Transparent Conductors
    Chapter One: Introduction
    1.1 Background to this Report
    1.1.1 Why Alternative Transparent Conductors May Not Take Off
    1.1.2 Making the Business Case for ITO Alternatives
    1.1.3 Footholds: Alternative TCOs and Conductive Polymers
    1.2 Objectives and Scope of this Report
    1.3 Methodology of this Report
    1.4 Plan of this Report
    Chapter Two: Technical and Cost Components of Transparent Conductor Business Cases
    2.1 Current Material Choices for Transparent Conductors: From ITO to Nanomaterials
    2.1.1 ITO
    2.1.2 Other TCOs
    2.1.3 Conductive Polymers
    2.1.4 Nanosilver Films
    2.1.5 Carbon Nanotube Films
    2.2 Comparison of Transparent Conductors as Transparent Materials
    2.2.1 Likelihood of Transparency Improvements: From Where  Will They Emerge?
    2.3 How Conductive are Transparent Conductors?
    2.3.1 Likelihood of Improved Conductivity: From Where Will It Emerge?
    2.4 The Flexibility and Resiliency Issue
    2.4.1 How Fragile is ITO Really?
    2.4.2 How Resilient are ITO Alternatives?
    2.5 Cost Issues
    2.5.1 Likely Cost Trends for ITO
    2.5.2 Polymers and TCOs as Low-Cost Alternatives to ITO
    2.5.3 Price Expectations for Nanomaterials Used as Transparent Conductors
    2.4 Key Points Made in this Chapter
    Chapter Three: Transparent Conductor Business Cases: Application by Application
    3.1 The Ongoing Case for ITO in LCD Displays
    3.1.1 Can ITO Ever be Dislodged from its Throne in the LCD Business?
    3.1.2 Where a Case Has Been Made for an Alternative Transparent Conductor: The Case of the Plasma Display
    3.2 Making the Case for ITO Replacement in Touch-Screen Displays
    3.2.1 Analog Resistive
    3.2.2 Projected Capacitive
    3.3 Likely Trends for Transparent Conductors in the OLED Space
    3.3.1 How the New AMOLED Makers are Likely to View Transparent Conductors
    3.3.2 How Will the New OLED Lighting Business Look at  Transparent Conductors?
    3.4 Making the Business Case for Transparent Conductors in EPDs and  Flexible Displays
    3.5 How the Business Case for Transparent Conductors is Made in the PV Sector
    3.5.1 Differences by Absorber Materials
    3.5.2 Likely Impact of PV Industry Thinking on the Display Industry
    3.6 The Business Case for Transparent Conductors in Antistatic Coatings and  EMC Applications
    3.7 Key Points Made in this Chapter
    Acronyms and Abbreviations Used In this Report
    About the Author
    List of Exhibits:
    Exhibit E-1: Summary of Transparent Conductor Markets ($ Millions)
    Exhibit 2-1: Transparent Conductor Material Types, Advantages, and Disadvantages
    Exhibit 2-2: Transparency of Transparent Conductive Material Types
    Exhibit 2-3: Sheet Resistance of Transparent Conductive Material Types
    Exhibit 2-4: Flexibility of Transparent Conductive Material Types
    Exhibit 2-5: Cost of Transparent Conductive Material Types
    Exhibit 3-1: Important Parameters for Transparent Conductors Used for LCD Displays
    Exhibit 3-2: Important Parameters for Transparent Conductors Used for Plasma Displays
    Exhibit 3-3: Important Parameters for Transparent Conductors Used for Touch-Screen Displays
    Exhibit 3-4: Important Parameters for Transparent Conductors Used for OLED Display Electrodes
    Exhibit 3-5: Important Parameters for Transparent Conductors Used for OLED Lighting Electrodes
    Exhibit 3-6: Important Parameters for Transparent Conductors Used for EPDs
    Exhibit 3-7: Important Parameters for Transparent Conductors Used for PV Electrodes
    Exhibit 3-8: Important Parameters for Transparent Conductors Used for ESD and EMC Applications


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