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Applications for Growth in the Dye-Sensitized Cell Industry

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Manufacturers of dye-sensitized cells (DSC) are shifting their attention to new applications where the capabilities of this PV technology can be better sold. These include applications in the …

Manufacturers of dye-sensitized cells (DSC) are shifting their attention to new applications where the capabilities of this PV technology can be better sold. These include applications in the building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) space and applications where the available light is limited. Meanwhile an apparent resurgence of interest in DSC has been reflected in a growing number of alliances being formed and the emergence of new materials suppliers. There have been technical improvements too. And although DSC cells continue to lag all other forms of PV (except organic PV (OPV)) in terms of efficiency, in the past couple of years DSC firms have been showing performance improvements that brings their offerings close to amorphous silicon (a-Si) PV. Given these trends, NanoMarkets believes that revenues from DSC sales will climb from $28 million in 2011 to $4.89 billion in 2018.

The data for this paper was sourced from the NanoMarkets report, Dye Sensitized Cells: Materials, Applications and Opportunities – 2011

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  • 1. NanoMarkets www.nanomarkets.net Page | 1 Applications for Growth in the Dye-Sensitized Cell Industry Published September 2011 © NanoMarkets, LCNanoMarkets, LCPO Box 3840Glen Allen, VA 23058Tel: 804-360-2967Web: www.nanomarkets.net NanoMarkets, LC | PO Box 3840 | Glen Allen, VA 23058 | TEL: 804-360-2967 | FAX: 804-360-7259
  • 2. NanoMarkets www.nanomarkets.netEntire contents copyright NanoMarkets, LC. The information contained in this report is based on thebest information available to us, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. NanoMarkets,LC and its author(s) shall not stand liable for possible errors of fact or judgment. The information inthis report is for the exclusive use of representative purchasing companies and may be used only bypersonnel at the purchasing site per sales agreement terms. Reproduction in whole or in any part is Page | 2prohibited, except with the express written permission of NanoMarkets, LC. NanoMarkets, LC | PO Box 3840 | Glen Allen, VA 23058 | TEL: 804-360-2967 | FAX: 804-360-7259
  • 3. NanoMarkets www.nanomarkets.netApplications for Growth in the Dye-Sensitized Cell IndustryManufacturers of dye-sensitized cells (DSC) are shifting their attention to new applications where thecapabilities of this PV technology can be better sold. These include applications in the building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) space and applications where the available light is limited. Meanwhile Page | 3an apparent resurgence of interest in DSC has been reflected in a growing number of alliances beingformed and the emergence of new materials suppliers. There have been technical improvements too.And although DSC cells continue to lag all other forms of PV (except organic PV (OPV)) in terms ofefficiency, in the past couple of years DSC firms have been showing performance improvements thatbrings their offerings close to amorphous silicon (a-Si) PV.Given these trends, NanoMarkets, a leading provider of market research and analysis of theopportunities in advanced materials and emerging energy and electronics markets, believes thatrevenues from DSC sales will climb from $28 million in 2011 to $4.89 billion in 2018. Summary of DSC Market Forecasts 6000 5000 4000 Embedded Device Power Markets $ Millions 3000 Portable Charging Markets 2000 BIPV Roofing/Siding Markets 1000 BIPV Glass Markets 0 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 © NanoMarkets, LC NanoMarkets, LC | PO Box 3840 | Glen Allen, VA 23058 | TEL: 804-360-2967 | FAX: 804-360-7259
  • 4. NanoMarkets www.nanomarkets.netRecent DSC Performance TrendsResearch and development work in the DSC space continues around the world and the battle for DSCefficiency improvements is still being fought today. Sony received certification at 9.9 percent in August2010, and Solaronix claims "10 percent" conversion efficiency, but without pointing to a particularresult or certification. As we just noted, this is very close to what has been achieved with a-Si as a PV Page | 4absorber layer and a-Si continues to see market growth suggesting good things ahead for DSC too.The flip side of this story is that looked at from the perspective of the PV market as a whole, a-Si isbeginning lose market share, so being just as good as a-Si isn’t really good enough. A realisticassessment of DSC suggests that DSC will never be another CdTe or CIGS; that is a PV technology thatcan boast about how high its efficiency is.Nonetheless, NanoMarkets believes that DSC will be able to improve performance over the next fewyears along non-conventional dimensions such as flexibility and transparency. These advances willenable DSC to build competitive advantages in certain markets where it cannot compete against otherPV technologies in terms of efficiency.A complication in the reporting of DSC efficiencies is that DSC cells are often more efficient in lowerintensity light. That is, under less than full sunlight illumination the conversion efficiency increasesmodestly. Of course, this increase is not enough to produce more power as light intensity decreases,but it does help DSC cells to avoid dramatic drops in power output in low light. For this reason the DSCindustry has been somewhat dissatisfied with the standard testing and reporting methods used todetermine the "performance" of photovoltaic cells.The reality of BIPV and other photovoltaic applications that do not track the sun has also led to anincreasing focus on total energy production by PV modules, rather than peak power output orpeak conversion efficiency. This shift in focus is natural because in most cases the electrical powerthat photovoltaics substitutes for is measured—and paid for—in units of energy, or kilowatthours.The introduction of new functionality to the 2009 version of the National Renewable EnergyLaboratory’s Solar Advisor Model (SAM) to model PV performance at different levels of light intensitywill reveal the higher (relative) power output of DSC modules under off-axis illumination, in shade, orunder artificial light and provide a "boost" to DSC power calculations in determining the value ofsystem installations. NanoMarkets sees this development as favorable and improving the accuracy ofmodeling and decision making in the photovoltaics industry. Unfortunately it will have little impact onthe portable and flexible applications that are so important to DSC markets. And module ratings willlikely continue to be defined by peak power output for several years to come.Therefore, many companies are de-emphasizing the standard peak conversion efficiency they achieveand are more likely to say that their cells perform "30 percent better" than another type of cell under NanoMarkets, LC | PO Box 3840 | Glen Allen, VA 23058 | TEL: 804-360-2967 | FAX: 804-360-7259
  • 5. NanoMarkets www.nanomarkets.netcertain lighting conditions, or that their cells produce "more uniform power throughout the day."Sometimes they do not even bother to certify claimed efficiencies through an independent agency.NanoMarkets cautions, however, that absence of serious certification may have some long-termnegative implications for DSC, in that it raises skepticism among both customers and investors. Thelack of certification has caused some new, high efficiency announcements to be taken with a grain of Page | 5salt—perhaps leading some observers to mentally discount them to some lower value.On the other hand, this shift in emphasis on alternative performance properties indicates a shift inmarket focus for DSC that requires a different type of performance measurement. More specifically,DSC manufacturers might rather have their products compared on the basis of indoor or other low-level illumination—or at least on total kWh output—instead of on peak watts in full sun. And they aredrawing attention to these aspects that are stronger in comparison to other technologies maintainingmore of their power output under low-light or off-angle illumination, and in some cases improvedconversion efficiency as the modules get warmer, and are also focusing on indoor markets moreheavily than other technologies do.Advances of the Material KindThere continue to be possibilities for breakthroughs in the DSC area at this early stage of and we seematerials as having the biggest potential for new business opportunities going forward: DSCs contain expensive ruthenium-based dyes, but ruthenium is quite rare and there is the risk of price fluctuations and supply problems. Chlorophyll derivatives, copper-based dyes, inorganic nanoparticles dispersed on the surface of the titania host, and mixed "cocktails" of various dyes are being investigated as alternatives. Sony and Peccell have both been active in the alternative dye space. Recently, in some cases DSC dyes have been selected based on color instead of performance, thus using DSC for decoration and aesthetics in addition to power production. Sony, Nissha Printing, and Aisin-Seiki/Toyota have reported such activity. The electrolyte is where the most substantial materials developments are taking place in DSC. The standard iodine-based electrolytes work well, but introduce two problems; they are liquids that require containment and are difficult to print, and they are very dark in color, impacting aesthetics and the ability to make transparent DSC cells. Alternatives include ionic liquids (transparency and higher viscosity) from BASF, Merck, and Solaronix; and printable paste electrolytes (flexibility with easier containment) from Oxford Photovoltaics and SolarPrint. The platinum paste catalyst is the second most costly component of DSC cells on a per gram basis and significant quantities are used. Carbon paste is now emerging as an effective alternative, with materials being developed by Solaronix and Peccell. NanoMarkets, LC | PO Box 3840 | Glen Allen, VA 23058 | TEL: 804-360-2967 | FAX: 804-360-7259
  • 6. NanoMarkets www.nanomarkets.net Effective encapsulation for long-term durability presents the greatest challenge and consequently the greatest opportunity for DSC markets and is critical for its use in BIPV applications. Encapsulation suppliers and developers will find a need for commercialized films targeted towards DSC at all levels, from short-lived products that nonetheless require Page | 6 reliability during their short lifetimes, to the most advanced solutions that enable DSC-based flexible BIPV to become a high-volume market. Tandem cells consisting of two cells stacked one on top of the other are a way to increase the conversion efficiency of DSC. However, the increased conversion efficiency is relatively small and comes at a significant cost—one that may be too high given the extreme sensitivity of many DSC markets to cost.Emerging Economics of DSCOverall macroeconomic drivers will help DSC as they will all PV technologies, including an improvingeconomy (if that is what we have), and growing interest in alternatives to nuclear energy in the wakeof the disaster at the Fukushima power plant in Japan.And with the certification by Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology(AIST) of Sonys DSC champion cell at 9.9 percent in August 2010, DSC has begun to break away fromOPV in terms of performance and is opening up opportunities in larger addressable markets.Currently, G24i is the only company shipping DSC products in any quantity. It offers a portable solarcharger, some charging solar bags, and solar-powered devices including a keyboard and a remotecontrol. Japanese company TDK had a product of its own, but presently it is unclear whether thatproduct is still being sold.For the next few years, DSC will be found mostly in such off-grid applications because they are easierto market and there is not the overwhelming competition that DSC would face in other markets.Examples of off-grid applications include standalone solar chargers, PV-powered mobile devices,prodcuts where PV power would compete with single-use batteries, and thin applications likesmartcards, calculators and other simple electronic devices, toys, wristwatches, clocks and headsets.In their business development efforts, companies such as G24i and 3GSolar are specifically focusing onlesser developed countries (LDCs) where electricity grids are primitive or do not exist. Opportunitiesare also expanding in developed regions as off-grid applications get less power hungry. But while highprofit margins are possible in these markets, DSC will be competing with other forms of flexible PV andthe volumes of DSC materials consumed per unit are small.But for DSC to develop into a reasonably-sized market, it will have to move into bigger and betterapplications. Ultimately DSC is likely to find its biggest markets in the BIPV industry, where DSC can NanoMarkets, LC | PO Box 3840 | Glen Allen, VA 23058 | TEL: 804-360-2967 | FAX: 804-360-7259
  • 7. NanoMarkets www.nanomarkets.netexploit its flexibility, transparency and (especially) its ability to do reasonably well in relatively poorlight conditions. Recent activities suggest progress is being made: Dyesol and Pilkington formed an alliance to develop BIPV glass Dyeseol and Corus (part of Tata Steel) initiated a joint project to develop continuous Page | 7 manufacturing for a DSC-on-steel product for roofing markets Fujikara announced in 2011 a low-light DSC module designed for indoor energy harvesting Oxford Photovoltaics is targeting the BIPV space Sony has been experimenting with the aesthetics of DSC modules and developing artistic and decorative patterns; a design direction that only really makes sense in the context of BIPV The Dyesol-Timo JV plans to target BIPV applications in 2014The challenges that these companies must overcome include the low power and shorter lifetimes ofDSC compared to other PV technologies and the fact that its lower cost compared to thesetechnologies is often lost in the overall higher cost of the building materials. However, DSC’stransparency (for solar glass) and flexibility (for roofing and siding applications) are notable benefits inthis segment.Beyond portable chargers and BIPV, there are other potential applications for DSC, such as in signage,and especially for signs that need to be powered by indoor ambient light including retail displays likeelectronic shelf labels and other point-of-purchase displays. PV-powered clothing for charging devicesor with other kinds of electronic functionality may be a large application in the flexible PV segment;flexible PV-powered bags or flexible "skins" could also emerge. Several companies are alsoinvestigating the use of DSC PV for various sensing applications.Positive IndicatorsExpansion at the leading DSC firm, growing numbers of DSC developers, and the entrance of newmaterials suppliers all point to growing interest and expectations for the DSC market.Dyesol remains something of a bellwether of the DSC industry and was able to increase sales andattract additional investment in 2010. Furthermore, the expansion of this firm over the past couple ofyears—especially in terms of the alliances it has formed with both very large and smaller companiesthat emphasize technical improvements, work on new applications and important distributionagreements—also speaks well for the future of the DSC industry.This expansion at Dyesol has been accompanied by an increase in the number of firms taking an activepart in the DSC space. Other notable players include Everlight Chemical, Peccell Technologies, SolarPrint, and Solaronix. There are also several module producers, with many reaching the pilot plantstage: 3GSola, Acrosol, Fujikura, G24 Innovations (G24i), Nissha Printing Company, Ltd., NLAB, OxfordPhotovoltaics, Sony, Dyesol-Timo, and Toyota. NanoMarkets, LC | PO Box 3840 | Glen Allen, VA 23058 | TEL: 804-360-2967 | FAX: 804-360-7259
  • 8. NanoMarkets www.nanomarkets.netOn the supply side, a number of the largest specialty chemicals/materials firms in the world areworking in this field, and while none have made DSC a core business in any sense, their support mustbe regarded as adding credibility to DSC. BASF, Fujikura, Merck, Showa Denko, Sony and Umicore arekey examples. Page | 8Outlook for the FutureDSC still has a long way to go to become a sizable PV market. At the present, among DSCmanufacturers, only G24i has achieved the level of manufacturing volume that is necessary for us tofeel comfortable speaking of "production" module efficiencies, and those are at 1.0 percent efficientper specification, or 1.9% if measuring just over the active aperture area.Even so, advances in efficiencies, new materials and encapsulation technologies are increasing thelikelihood of DSC’s success. And the low-cost printing processes and equipment used to make DSCdevices could allow DSC to remain fairly low in cost, even when produced in small factories, anadvantage over other PV technologies, which rely on large volume manufacturing to lower costs.The on-grid BIPV market will dominate DSC through 2018, accounting for nearly 95% of all revenues.Within the BIPV segment, revenues from the BIPV roofing/siding market will be about 1.5 times thesize of revenues earned from BIPV glass. Meanwhile, the revenues from the specialist materials used inDSC will reach $781 million by 2016 and climb to $2.6 billion by 2018.This paper was drawn from the NanoMarkets report, Dye Sensitized Cells: Materials, Applications andOpportunities – 2011, Nano-344Please contact us at 804-270-4370 or sales@nanomarkets.net for information on how toobtain a full copy of this report. NanoMarkets, LC | PO Box 3840 | Glen Allen, VA 23058 | TEL: 804-360-2967 | FAX: 804-360-7259