Report: Indium-tin-oxide replacements eye application entry points

Mar. 18, 2008 – The market for transparent semiconductors used in display, photovoltaics, and lighting markets will surge to ~$9.4B by 2015, according to a study from analysis firm NanoMarkets. And a key element in the devices, indium tin oxide (ITO), will continue to be in heavy demand despite surging prices and other limitations.

ITO will continue to take a large share of the transparent conductor market over the next decade, and demand for the material will grow even if indium prices go up. by 2015, the firm says ITO-coated substrate sales will top $8.0B, while ITO inks and pastes achieve commercialization and surge to $600M in sales.

Many materials explored at ITO replacements — including other transparent conducting oxides such as AZO and IZO as well as organic conductors and materials using carbon nanotubes and other nanomaterials — fall short in terms of conductivity and transparency, the firm notes. But work continues to improve formulations utilizing nanotubes and other nanomaterials, and these nanoengineered transparent conductors could end up taking a bigger chunk of the market, possibly worth $750M by 2015.

The main application entry-point for ITO replacements will be in touch-screen displays, where transparency and conductivity are less important than long-term resilience, an area in which ITO substitutes such as PEDOT and carbon nanotube formulations fare well. NanoMarkets forecasts a $400M market by 2015 for such transparent conductors used in touch screen displays.

Two other emerging markets for ITO replacement technologies include OLED lighting and flexible displays, areas that are not well suited for classical ITO for various reasons, notably flexibility with resistance to high-temperature manufacturing approaches typically associated with conventional ITO deposition. The analysis firm reports the market for transparent conductors for OLED lighting alone will total $670 million in 2015, with 70% of that derived from alternatives to the classic ITO approach.

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