Opportunities for metal mesh, silver nanowires, carbon nanotubes, graphene and other non-ITO transparent conductive films in the touch display industry and elsewhere

The touch panel sector, which has been growing explosively over the past decade, offers tremendous opportunities for new materials and next-generation technologies, but only if developers can accurately grasp market requirements, and identify the sweet spots for their products and services. Jennifer Colegrove, industry analyst and founder of Touch Display Research, has been covering the market in detail since 2006. In this guest post for TMR+, she looks at how the sector has matured, explains why ITO transparent conductive films (TCFs) remain dominant despite their disadvantages and assesses the prospects for new materials.

Overview 2006 – 2020
Touch Display Research forecasts that the touch module revenue will reach $36 billion by 2020, from just $2 billion in 2006.

Figure 1. Touch Module Market Forecast (Image credit: Touch Display Research).

Figure 1. Touch Module Market Forecast (Image credit: Touch Display Research).

Touch screen suppliers, especially those providing projected capacitive touch modules – a popular choice for smart phones and tablets as the technology supports multi-touch gestures – have been mostly profitable during 2007 and 2009. But fast forward to 2016 and the competition is fierce with many touch screen suppliers encountering net losses in recent years as manufacturing capacity has outstripped demand, pushing down panel prices. To become a leader or maintain a leadership position in today’s touch industry, providers need to enhance their offering to customers and introduce new features to drive profits. Continue reading

Mobile World Congress 2016: a big opportunity for graphene

How can 2D materials help mobile device makers and equipment providers to upgrade their core products and grow their business in emerging markets such as wearable technology and the internet of things (IoT)? Visitors at this year’s Mobile World Congress (MWC) will have the chance to find out thanks to the Graphene Pavilion – a live demo space dedicated to 2D materials that makes its debut at the 2016 show (22-25 Feb). Applications on the radar include better batteries and portable power packs, flexible conductive films for touch and other device functions, solutions for network infrastructure, improved sensors and electromagnetic components.

Technology showcase
The Mobile World Congress is the biggest event on the communications industry’s calendar (over 94,000 people visited the show in 2015) and provides a huge opportunity for the graphene community to pitch its breakthrough materials to key customers in the supply chain. At the event, materials providers and leading researchers will be on-hand to discuss how graphene and its derivatives can be integrated into next generation devices and update attendees on the latest scientific results.

Presenters at the Graphene Pavilion include Aixtron, Avanzare, AMO, FlexEnable, GNext, Graphenea, Libre SRL, nVision and Zap&Go, the University of Cambridge, Chalmers University of Technology, the University of Manchester, ICFO – The Institute of Photonic Sciences, Catalan Institute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (ICN2), CNR National Research Council and the Italian Institute of Technology.

Lab to market
Recognising that the mobile industry has much to gain from transformative materials, the congress organizers have invited Nobel Laureate Konstantin Novoselov to give a keynote presentation at this year’s event, and scheduled a panel discussion to highlight major opportunities on the horizon.


Graphene Flagship
Mobile World Congress 2016

Read next

Graphene Week 2015: industry opportunities and more (TMR+)
Graphene Pavilion: Day one (Graphene Flagship News)

DuPont gearing up for OLED to become display standard

DuPont is scaling up its formulations capability in the area of OLED materials. Recently, the chemicals giant has opened a facility to serve the commercialization of next-generation TVs and other large-format displays. The firm has invested more than $20 million in the plant, which is based at DuPont’s Stine-Haskell Research Center in Delaware, US.

Technology package
Back in June, DuPont announced that it was teaming up with Kateeva, a manufacturer of industrial ink-jet printing equipment, to optimize materials and processes to advance the fabrication of Organic Light Emitting Diode (OLED) displays.

Printed displays give developers the opportunity to reduce material waste compared with evaporative techniques and target more competitive price-points for their products.

Applications for OLED materials also include lighting, and DuPont is working with the Holst Centre on this topic as part of an extended collaboration reported in 2014.

DuPont has been building its portfolio of OLED materials for 15 years. In 2000, the firm acquired UNIAX – a pioneering display company founded by Alan Heeger, which was spun out of the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) in 1990. Heeger is a winner of the 2000 Nobel Prize in chemistry (together with Alan G. MacDiarmid and Hideki Shirakawa) for the discovery and development of electrically conducting polymers.

Related stories on TMR+
How can you reduce the cost of flexible electronics?

Related articles from the journal Translational Materials Research (TMR)
Organic electronics: Europe builds TOLAE portfolio to address markets (Transl. Mater. Res. 2 030302)
An interview with board member Serdar Sariciftci (Transl. Mater. Res. 2 010202)
Singlet harvesting copper-based emitters: a modular approach towards next-generation OLED technology (Transl. Mater. Res. 1 015003)

How can you reduce the cost of flexible electronics?

Semiconducting polymers are a key ingredient in organic light emitting diodes (OLEDs), organic photovoltaics (OPVs) and organic field effect transistors (OFETs) – and pave the way for future bendable electronic devices. The technology is driving advances in the design of flexible displays, conformable energy harvesters, and wearable sensors to name just a few applications. What’s more, thanks to their solubility in many organic solvents, semiconducting polymers provide device makers with a range of appealing fabrication options including ink-jet printing, spray-coating and roll-to-roll production.

Graphical guidelines: a series of figure of merit charts show the interplay between key performance parameters for different blends and film thicknesses of PEDOT:PSS/PVA (Olivia Carr et al 2015 Transl. Mater. Res. 2 015002).

Graphical guidelines: a series of figure of merit charts show the interplay between key performance parameters for different blends and film thicknesses of PEDOT:PSS/PVA (Olivia Carr et al 2015 Transl. Mater. Res. 2 015002).

Optimizing the composition of the blended film is important to balance the cost versus performance. In many cases, high electrical conductivity and high optical transmittance in the visible range of the electromagnetic spectrum are critical factors. However, other aspects such as flexibility, film formation, chemical stability and wettability can also play an important role in the choice of the material or the composition to be used, together with overall processing considerations.

Case study: semi-transparent electrodes for flexible optoelectronics
In a recent study, published in the journal Translational Materials Research (TMR), materials scientists have examined a blend comprising poly(3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene):polystyrene sulfonate (PEDOT:PSS) and polyvinyl alcohol (PVA), which can be used as a flexible, semi-transparent and highly-conductive material in electronic and optoelectronic devices. The electrical conductivity and optical transmittance of spray-deposited films of various thicknesses and blend ratios were evaluated to determine the most appropriate composition for optimal device performance and cost.

Presenting their results as a series of figure of merit diagrams, the researchers observe that it should be possible to decrease the PEDOT:PSS content in the blend down to 30% (by weight) and maintain an acceptable level of electrical conductivity for many applications.

Full details
Analysis of the electrical and optical properties of PEDOT:PSS/PVA blends for low-cost and high-performance organic electronic and optoelectronic devices
Olivia Carr et al 2015 Transl. Mater. Res. 2 015002

Webinar round-up: no one-size-fits-all solution for transparent conductive films

Khasha Ghaffarzadeh, head of consulting at market analyst IDTechEx, told attendees at yesterday’s webinar that there is currently no one-size-fits-all solution for transparent conductive films (TCFs), and new and expanding applications are opening up the market to include a range of materials.

One such driver is the demand for touchscreens, and although indium tin oxide (ITO) deposited on glass remains the dominant technology, it is being challenged on a number of fronts – for example, larger display sizes require films with lower sheet-resistance to manage current flow. Also, displays that are designed to bend or flex present another set of problems for touchscreen makers.

Ghaffarzadeh pointed out that switching from ITO-on-glass to ITO-on-film is one option, but for applications that require tight bending radii or for devices that are designed to flex many times, developers will have to consider alternative materials.

Here, graphene could be one to watch, especially given recent developments in roll-to-roll production (a topic covered on TMR+ last month). The material is flexible and robust, but these properties need to be matched by other parts of the device for the final package to be a success.

Continue reading