Table of ContentsIntroductionOxides, Organics and Nanotech: Materials for Transparent ElectronicsReal-World Transparent Electronic ApplicationsThree Factors to Awaken Transparent Electronics Aesthetics Integration Improved Economics Non-transparent Aspects of Transparent MaterialsConclusionAbout Nanomarkets
Glass and transparent plastic have been used as substrates for solar panels, displays, solar panels and large-area sensors for years. Furthermore, a range of transparent conducting materials such as indium tin oxide (ITO) has been developed to be used in transparent electrodes.
NanoMarkets believes that a new class of materials will serve as an important enabling factor for new products in the display, lighting, smart windows, solar panel and large-area sensor markets, maybe in other sectors also.
There are chances to develop a more detailed and high-performance transparent materials set that can enable transparent electronic products to evolve to a point where they themselves can generate more revenues.
Oxides, Organics and Nanotech: Materials for Transparent Electronics
In the electronics sector, transparent conductors have been proposed as an alternative to ITO and include transparent conductive oxides other than ITO, conductive polymers and a range of nanomaterials.
Glass substrates as well as substrates made from plastics (PEN and PET) are easy to source. Developing materials for a complete transparent electronic materials suite could take a number of directions in the future.
NanoMarkets believes that most of the transparent electronic materials that are developed and commercialized by specialty chemical and material firms will be based on metallic oxides. Semiconducting metallic oxides are used due to several factors, but especially these materials are very inexpensive.
The quest for better metal oxide materials for transparent electronics will continue, and as transparent electronics searches for better materials, it is not likely to restrict itself to metal oxides.
Some of the materials that are routinely used such as PEDOT are intrinsically transparent. The electron mobilities of both oxide transistors and organic transistors are stunningly low by the standards of conventional silicon microelectronics.
There is a possibility that nanomaterials will explore the transparent electronic sector as researchers are trying to develop nanocomposites with improved mechanical and electrical properties. A range of transparent coatings based on nanomaterials is also now available.
Real-World Transparent Electronic Applications
Eventually the materials suite used by transparent electronics will stabilize and the role of organic electronics materials and nanomaterials in transparent electronics will become clearer. Certain reasons while transparent electronics have not yet made a mark are listed below:
- Too cool to succeed: Transparent electronics suffers from the fact that it is so cool that that it lies more in fiction movies than in reality. To believe that all this could be made into real functional products has yet to be accepted.
- Current applications for transparent electronics are quite primitive: The second reason is almost the opposite of the first. For example, in the display sector, simple passive matrix LED and EL displays with very little functionality are what are termed as transparent displays. While talking about a tinted or untinted smart window, the finish obtained when compared to a conventional window is not good enough.
Three Factors to Awaken Transparent Electronics
NanoMarkets believes there are four critical aspects of “transparency” that the design and marketing of transparent electronics products needs to focus on for it to become a serious revenue earner. These factors include the following:
- Improved economics and
- Aspects of transparent materials that are not directly related to transparency
In order to market glass products, aesthetics have always been a key factor. The glass industry has a considerably long history and deeper understanding of marketing transparent products than the emerging transparent electronics industry. Transparent solar panels are being used as they look better than large framed solar panels installed in an all-too-visible fashion on a roof.
Since transparency enables visual access to multiple layers of a large-area panel it allows an additional level of integration. This is most obvious in the transparent overlay displays that are already being built in prototype by the display industry but it also applies to smart-window concepts that are being dreamed up that combine self-tinting windows, OLEDs and PV.
One example of that is in the PV space again, where transparent solar panels represent an example of building integrated photovoltaics in which the cost of building materials and of the photovoltaics can be distributed over a common substrate and total expenditures are considerably reduced.
Non-transparent Aspects of Transparent Materials
As mentioned above, in the case of transparent conductors, some transparent electronic materials have been developed without truly transparent electronics in mind as an application. However, it is possible that the reverse is also true. That is that materials that are developed specifically with transparent electronics in mind can find a larger market.
There are signs that the transparent electronics market is beginning to move beyond the niche products that are mentioned above. It is particularly gratifying that transparent displays are now moving from being the province of little signage firms to one that interests the likes of Apple, LG, Microsoft and Samsung. And when one digs down a little further it is possible to find interest in designing transparent solar panels from major PV firms. It may be that there will be players in the smart window, sensor and lighting industries who also begin to invest substantially in transparent electronics over the next few years.
NanoMarkets is a leading provider of market research and industry analysis of opportunities within advanced materials and emerging energy and electronics markets. Since the firm’s founding, NanoMarkets has published over one hundred comprehensive research reports on emerging technology markets. Topics covered have included OLED displays, lighting and materials, thin-film electronics, conductive inks, transparent conductors, renewable energy, printed electronics and other promising technologies. Our client roster is a who’s who of companies in specialty chemicals, materials, electronics applications and manufacturing.
This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by NanoMarkets.
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