New Opportunities in Conductive Coatings Markets


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While much of the conductive coatings market involves mature applications and materials, NanoMarkets also believes that there are growing number of newer opportunities for conductive coatings as new types of batteries, displays, lighting and solar panels that are begin to appear on the market. These newer product types will require entirely new conductive materials for their electrodes. NanoMarkets estimates that the value of the conductive coatings market will reach $14.8 billion in 2017.

The material for this paper was drawn from the NanoMarkets report, Conductive Coatings Markets, 2010 and Beyond

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New Opportunities in Conductive Coatings Markets

  1. 1. NanoMarkets New Opportunities in Conductive Coatings Markets A NanoMarkets White Paper Published September 2011 © NanoMarkets, LCNanoMarkets, LCPO Box 3840Glen Allen, VA 23058Tel: 804-360-2967Web:
  2. 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 by Page | 2personnel at the purchasing site per sales agreement terms. Reproduction in whole or in any part isprohibited, 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. 3. NanoMarkets www.nanomarkets.netSignificant Opportunities Opening Up for Conductive CoatingsWhile much of the conductive coatings market involves mature applications and materials,NanoMarkets also believes that there are growing number of newer opportunities for conductivecoatings as new types of batteries, displays, lighting and solar panels that are begin to appear on the Page | 3market. These newer product types will require entirely new conductive materials for their electrodes.NanoMarkets, a leading provider of market research and analysis of the opportunities in advancedmaterials and emerging energy and electronics markets, estimates that the value of the conductivecoatings market will reach $14.8 billion in 2017. Conductive Coatings Markets: Materials 16,000 14,000 12,000 10,000 $ Millions Nanomaterials and hybrids 8,000 Polymers 6,000 Metallic compounds 4,000 Metals and conventional carbon 2,000 0 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 © NanoMarkets, LCNot Just Metals AnymoreTraditionally, and for obvious reasons, conductive coatings have been metals. The major exception tothis rule is where the coating has had to be transparent as well as conductive, as in the display andthin-film solar panel industry. In such cases, transparent conductive (metal) oxides (TCOs) have beenused, with indium tin oxide (ITO) the leading material because of its relative good tradeoff betweentransparency and conductivity; although the most recently evolved thin-film PV technologies haveused aluminum zinc oxide (AZO) and fluorine zinc oxide (FTO).Much bigger than these trends we believe in terms of generating new business revenues for theconductive coatings industry is the use of nanomaterials and conductive polymers in commercialconductive coatings. Trends in the electronics industry, particularly miniaturization and the ubiquity of NanoMarkets, LC | PO Box 3840 | Glen Allen, VA 23058 | TEL: 804-360-2967 | FAX: 804-360-7259
  4. 4. NanoMarkets www.nanomarkets.netwireless communications are also providing opportunities for firms in the bulk conductive coatingsspace.Generally, low-cost manufacturing techniques can be employed for producing conductive coatings,including evaporation, solution-processing and thermal transfer. Printing processes, such as inkjet,flexo, and gravure printing are also growing in importance. Sputtering, physical vapor deposition Page | 4(PVD), chemical vapor deposition (CVD) and atomic layer deposition (ALD) are employed in variousapplications requiring thin film formation.More Material OptionsThe materials used to form conductive coatings fall into four categories: metals, metal oxides,conductive polymers, and nanomaterials. Metallic coatings exhibit the highest conductivity,particularly in nanomaterial form, and according to NanoMarkets’ analysis will account for nearly halfof sales in 2017. Metallic oxides, which will make up the second largest category in 2017 based onvalue, are generally orders of magnitude less conductive than metals, but are often useful becausethey are transparent. Conductive plastics are also far less conductive than metals and thus will onlyaccount for less than 5% of sales in 2017 (3.7%), but offer greater flexibility and lower cost.Nanomaterials, which also include metals and metal oxides, are a newer category and technology, butof growing importance, and will account for nearly 10% of sales in 2017.Metals: Of the common metals used in conductive coatings, silver is, of course, the most conductiveand is widely used for electrodes, but it is relatively expensive and – as we are seeing all too clearly atthe present time -- its price can fluctuate with changes in the world financial markets. Coatings tend touse very small amounts of silver. But when the price of silver is as high as it is now, cost can still makea difference.Still the silver coatings business is protected from substitutions by the fact that alternatives to silverhave some pretty serious issues of their own, so the switching costs involved for users who want tomove away from silver can be quite significant. Copper and aluminum are the obvious substitutes, butthey have handling, performance and corrosion problems that must be coped with. Despite itsexpense and price fluctuations, gold is used for gold plating of contacts in high-end video equipmentand implants for humans and animals (due to its inertness), but gold coatings are never going to bewhere users of silver coatings are going to be headed when they want to abandon silver. Carbon-based inks are used where maximum conductivity is not a critical requirement.NanoMarkets expects demand for alloys and other metal derivatives to increase as the prices ofcommon metals used in conductive coatings rise. Combinations such as silver-plated copper or silverand carbon can reduce the cost of thick-film pastes or increase conductivity without reducingtransparency. Organometallic compounds have been used in antistatic coatings, printed circuits, EMIshielding and ink jet applications. NanoMarkets, LC | PO Box 3840 | Glen Allen, VA 23058 | TEL: 804-360-2967 | FAX: 804-360-7259
  5. 5. NanoMarkets www.nanomarkets.netMetallic oxides: Although metallic oxides are not as conductive as metals, they still are widely used asconductive coatings, either because of their lower cost or their transparency. The fragility and cost ofITO (which depends on the price of indium), however, are significant limitations of the material andare providing incentive for development of ITO alternatives, although manufacturing improvementsstill present an opportunity to achieve cost reductions. And, as we have already noted, in certain Page | 5applications, other TCOs offer superior cost/performance ratios to ITO. We have already mentionedAZO and FTO for use in thin-film PV panels. Indium zinc oxide also has a fragile share of the displaymarket, mainly because of its use at Samsung.And despite its issues, NanoMarkets expects ITO to continue to dominate the high-end transparentconductor market for a long time to come.Conductive Polymers: Conductive polymers of interest include derivatives of polyaniline, polypyrroleand polythiophene, as they are commercially available in sufficient quantities, are stable in air andeasy to apply. Because they can be transparent and have flexibility, conductive polymers are beingevaluated as possible ITO replacements in touch screens and flexible displays. Other potentialapplications include smart windows, smart fabrics and sensors, which, to return to our remarks at thebeginning of this article, are all expected to be growth applications over the next decade. Still, despitetheir commercial potential, we should note that conductive polymers show relatively low conductivity,and thus they have limited use for high-performance applications.The most well known conductive polymer - PEDOT: PSS – is doped poly(3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene)(PEDOT). It is offered as a water-based dispersion of submicron-size gel particles of the polymer thatform continuous, transparent films upon drying. It has traditionally found its widest use in applicationin antistatic coatings, but it is encouraging to see it creep into other applications in supercapacitors,OLEDs and as an ITO substitute for displays that do not need very high-performing electrode materials.Other conducting polymers include polyselenophene (PEDOS), the selenium analog of PEDOT and 3,4-phenylenedioxythiophene (PheDOT).Nanomaterials: Compared with the other materials used in conductive coatings, nanomaterials are atan earlier stage of technological and commercial development and therefore have the potential tomake a leap forward in performance and price.NanoMarkets believes that it would be hard to overestimate the potential that nanomaterials have fortransforming the conductive coatings industry in terms of the performance improvements in thecoatings and hence in terms of expanding the addressable markets for these coatings. Coatings,pastes and inks made with nanomaterials can be more conductive due to the increased physicalcontact between the much smaller particles. Nanocoatings can also potentially be thinner than otherkinds of coatings and may dry faster. NanoMarkets, LC | PO Box 3840 | Glen Allen, VA 23058 | TEL: 804-360-2967 | FAX: 804-360-7259
  6. 6. NanoMarkets www.nanomarkets.netThe greatest potential impact for nanomaterial-based coatings is perhaps as functional inks andpastes, especially nanosilver inks, in high-end transparent conductive coatings. Nanomaterials mayalso be used to develop conductive coatings for electrodes in next-generation applications that requirehigher conductivity, lower processing costs and other performance features that only nanomaterialscan provide. Page | 6Not surprisingly, nanosilver is the most common nanomaterial being developed, but products withnanocopper and carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are also being produced, and coatings containing grapheneor non-carbon nanostructures are at the research stage. Carbon nanotube coatings can be madetransparent and are very strong and flexible. NanoMarkets believes they represent one of the bestmaterial options for providing an alternative to costly, brittle ITO films. Not only is their long-termpotential for low cost attractive, but their flexibility makes them ideal for the growing number offlexible electronics applications.The Three Key Markets for Conductive CoatingsAs part of its ongoing analysis of the conductive coatings market, NanoMarkets has identified threegeneral areas of opportunity for conductive coatings: (1) coatings for electrodes, (2) antistatic coatingsand (3) EMI/RFI shielding materials.Coatings for electrodes: The most important emerging opportunities for conductive coatings are incontacts and electrodes for new types of electronics, optical devices, batteries and photovoltaicpanels. Traditional thick-film markets largely rely on inks/pastes of silver, but copper, nickel, gold andcarbon and their mixtures are available and are used as conductivity and price dictate. In this segment,printed circuit boards (PCBs) and capacitors present the greatest opportunities.Antistatic coatings: This segment is divided into chip bags, protective clothing, and general antistaticcoatings used mainly for optical applications. While it is mature, it is receiving attention for severalreasons. As the features on electronic devices become ever smaller, they require greater protectionfrom static electricity and thus higher performing electrostatic discharge (ESD) coatings. NanoMarketstherefore expects growth for ESDs in chip assembly, displays (particularly for flexible systems), thin-film photovoltaics (PV) and organic light emitting diode (OLED) lighting applications. Antistatic coatingsfor packaging and industrial clothing are also likely to see something of a boom as the concern aboutdamage from static electricity and vagrant currents becomes more important.Many antistatic coating applications are more influenced by cost factors than by technicalperformance, but there are also applications where performance (transparency) dominates otherfactors. Tin oxide, for example, is often preferred for window coatings. Inherently flexible polymersincluding polyether block amides are ideal for ESD applications in flexible packaging and related areas.Conductive polymers also find use in ESD protection systems for cleanroom environments.EMI/RFI shielding materials: Electromagnetic interference (EMI) and radio frequency interference(RFI) shielding materials is also another mature market, but opportunities for conductive coatings are NanoMarkets, LC | PO Box 3840 | Glen Allen, VA 23058 | TEL: 804-360-2967 | FAX: 804-360-7259
  7. 7. NanoMarkets www.nanomarkets.netgrowing as computing and communications shift to wireless operation. In fact, NanoMarkets believesthat there are now many market sectors where EMI/RFI problems have shifted from being serious tobeing critical. As a result, substantial markets will be found in radio communications that use high-frequency (i.e., GHz) radio waves, for improved EMI/RFI shielding in areas where unimpeded operationis vital and where system failures can cost lives, in consumer electronics (particularly displays), Page | 7automotive electronic systems and in appliances with increasing electronic complexity.Because many of the newer applications in which electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) issues arise arehighly cost sensitive, cost is a critical factor in choosing conductive coating materials. Metals aregenerally the first choice of materials for EMI/RFI shielding because of their ability to behave witheither high strength or ductility or both. Conductive polymers and elastomers also find use in EMI/RFIapplications, particularly because of their inherent flexibility, which makes them ideal for use onflexible or irregularly shaped surfaces and gasketing.And New Applications TooGiven the various functionalities that conductive coatings impart, it is not surprising that they find usein a large number of different applications.Batteries: Conductive coatings in batteries provide two kinds of functionality: they are used as a corematerial in thin-film and printed batteries and in some batteries they can serve as a protective materialthat increases performance and/or enables the use of more aggressive chemistries.NanoMarkets believes that there are at least three sectors of the battery market where innovativecoatings products have opportunities for growth: electric vehicles, where higher performance and theneed to satisfy environmental concerns are paramount; mobile computing and communicationsdevices, where improved time-between-charges is a key competitive factor; small devices such assensors, RFID tags, and credit cards, where thinness and flexibility are key.In general, these applications make use of lithium batteries, and thus any new applications forconductive coatings in lithium batteries could eventually represent sizeable opportunities, because thevolumes of lithium batteries shipped are already large and likely to continue to grow. Thin-film andprintable batteries are a specialized form of lithium battery with greatest potential for future highvolume use in powered smartcards and battery-assisted RFID tags and current smaller volumeapplication in medical/cosmetic patches and implants.Finally, NanoMarkets sees the battery market as a good market for novel nanocoatings, which seemlikely to produce higher performance batteries if packing densities of the electrodes can be improved.Fuel Cells: Conductive coatings are used in fuel cell applications for acid corrosion protection andelectrical conductivity enhancement of bipolar metal plates in much the same way that they are inbatteries, however, fuel cells remain in the early development stage. Most coatings are metallic NanoMarkets, LC | PO Box 3840 | Glen Allen, VA 23058 | TEL: 804-360-2967 | FAX: 804-360-7259
  8. 8. NanoMarkets, palladium, or ferrous nanopowder) and are applied to the electrodes to act as a catalyst. Inthe future, carbon nanotube coatings may have an important role to play in fuel cells.Photovoltaics: Conductive coatings are used for the contacts and as reflecting layers on various typesof solar panels. The most stable part of this market is the top electrode for c-Si PV, which invariablyuses screened silver for the front electrode and silver or more recently, less costly aluminum for the Page | 8back electrode. Thin-film PV (TFPV) producers mainly use ITO, as the transparent electrode.The cost of ITO, however, is driving interest in lower-priced alternatives, including zing and tin oxidederivatives. Organic (OPV) and dye sensitive cell (DSC) photovoltaics claim niche applications (portablepower, embedded power, and certain building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV)) that NanoMarketsbelieves represent a significant source of value and opportunities. For these flexible applications,conducting polymers, and specifically PEDOT: PSS, appear to be a natural candidate as an ITOsubstitute.Displays: ITO is the major conductive coating used in LCD display applications, which dominate thedisplay market. Some other TCOs and polymers do find limited application, and silver is used in PDPdisplays. The requirements for electrode materials are also shifting, however, as next-generationdisplays (e-paper, OLEDs, touchscreens, etc.) begin to take significant shares of the display business.NanoMarkets therefore believes that nanomaterials have a big breakthrough potential in this segment.Solid-State Lighting: The phasing out of incandescent lighting across the developed world hasintensified the interest in energy-efficient solid-state lighting (SSL), especially that using high-brightness (inorganic) or organic LEDS. NanoMarkets believes that OLED lighting has very goodprospects for market growth over the next decade. There is significant interest in this sector inreplacing ITO because of the high resistivity of ITO threatens to create brightness variations acrosslarger lighting surfaces.Military, National Security and Aerospace: These sectors require high-performance EMC products andthus are an important market for EMC materials. In addition, military applications are not asconcerned with cost minimization as consumer products are, but size and weight are often critical. Thissituation provides an important opportunity for the development, production, and ramp up of newer,higher-cost materials and products that would otherwise never make it to the marketplace and mayhelp to achieve the lower costs and reliable performance necessary for broad commercialimplementation.Other opportunities for EMC materials suppliers include developing materials that are better atdissipating radar signals and supplying materials for radar stations for air traffic control, weathermonitoring, and military uses.Sensors: Sensors use almost every commercially available conductive material, but the market isdifficult to assess because it is so fragmented, both in terms of potential customers and the number of NanoMarkets, LC | PO Box 3840 | Glen Allen, VA 23058 | TEL: 804-360-2967 | FAX: 804-360-7259
  9. 9. NanoMarkets www.nanomarkets.netdifferent applications. Therefore, while the aggregate amount of conductive coating materialconsumed by the sensor sector might actually be quite large, it is hard to pinpoint sizeable individualopportunities.Potentially significant future applications If RFID ultimately replaces the barcode, volume markets forRFID tags would be measured in the trillions, but this is unlikely to happen any time soon. For Page | 9conductive coatings, RFID antennas are the primary application and typically use thin film silver ornanosilver.Smart textiles are fabrics that are interwoven or printed with electronics. The technology remains in itsinfancy, with the only measurable use in the military and some medical environments. These productsare mostly made of optical fibers, which are fragile and uncomfortable to wear. Conductive coatingproducers are currently developing metallic, conductive polymer, and carbon nanotube-containingcoatings for this application.Smart windows are coated with conductive films based on metal oxides and sometimes carbonnanotubes and are used to provide enhanced energy efficiency, indoor comfort and even to createpositive mood effects. In addition, electrochromic materials are coated on glass so that thetransparency changes with the level of sunlight.For additional details about the NanoMarkets report, Conductive Coatings Markets, 2010 and Beyondplease visit the NanoMarkets website at or contact us via email or by phone at 804-270-4370. NanoMarkets, LC | PO Box 3840 | Glen Allen, VA 23058 | TEL: 804-360-2967 | FAX: 804-360-7259