Conductive Coatings Markets, 2010 and Beyond

29 Sep 2011 • by Natalie Aster

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, a leading provider of market research and analysis of the opportunities in advanced materials and emerging energy and electronics markets, estimates that the value of the conductive coatings market will reach $14.8 billion in 2017.

NanoMarkets has been providing analytical coverage of the conductive coatings market for more than three years and has developed an insider’s knowledge of this interesting market. In the report “Conductive Coatings Markets, 2010 and BeyondNanoMarkets has leveraged this knowledge and identified where the main opportunities in conductive coatings will be found in the next eight years. In particular, NanoMarkets has looked at the new business revenue opportunities for conductive coatings that are emerging from developments in the display, lighting, solar panel, battery and sensor markets.

Report Details:

Conductive Coatings Markets, 2010 and Beyond

Published: August 2010
Price: US$ 2,995.00

Report Sample Abstract

The Three Key Markets for Conductive Coatings

As part of its ongoing analysis of the conductive coatings market, NanoMarkets has identified three general areas of opportunity for conductive coatings: (1) coatings for electrodes, (2) antistatic coatings and (3) EMI/RFI shielding materials.

Coatings for electrodes: The most important emerging opportunities for conductive coatings are in contacts and electrodes for new types of electronics, optical devices, batteries and photovoltaic panels. Traditional thick-film markets largely rely on inks/pastes of silver, but copper, nickel, gold and carbon 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 antistatic coatings used mainly for optical applications. While it is mature, it is receiving attention for several reasons. As the features on electronic devices become ever smaller, they require greater protection from static electricity and thus higher performing electrostatic discharge (ESD) coatings. NanoMarkets therefore 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 coatings for packaging and industrial clothing are also likely to see something of a boom as the concern about damage from static electricity and vagrant currents becomes more important.

Many antistatic coating applications are more influenced by cost factors than by technical performance, but there are also applications where performance (transparency) dominates other factors. Tin oxide, for example, is often preferred for window coatings. Inherently flexible polymers including 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 growing as computing and communications shift to wireless operation. In fact, NanoMarkets believes that there are now many market sectors where EMI/RFI problems have shifted from being serious to being 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 operation is vital and where system failures can cost lives, in consumer electronics (particularly displays), automotive electronic systems and in appliances with increasing electronic complexity.

Because many of the newer applications in which electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) issues arise are highly cost sensitive, cost is a critical factor in choosing conductive coating materials. Metals are generally the first choice of materials for EMI/RFI shielding because of their ability to behave with either high strength or ductility or both. Conductive polymers and elastomers also find use in EMI/RFI applications, particularly because of their inherent flexibility, which makes them ideal for use on flexible or irregularly shaped surfaces and gasketing.

And New Applications Too

Given the various functionalities that conductive coatings impart, it is not surprising that they find use in a large number of different applications.

Batteries: Conductive coatings in batteries provide two kinds of functionality: they are used as a core material in thin-film and printed batteries and in some batteries they can serve as a protective material that 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 innovative coatings products have opportunities for growth: electric vehicles, where higher performance and the need to satisfy environmental concerns are paramount; mobile computing and communications devices, where improved time-between-charges is a key competitive factor; small devices such as sensors, 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 for conductive coatings in lithium batteries could eventually represent sizeable opportunities, because the volumes of lithium batteries shipped are already large and likely to continue to grow. Thin-film and printable batteries are a specialized form of lithium battery with greatest potential for future high volume use in powered smartcards and battery-assisted RFID tags and current smaller volume application in medical/cosmetic patches and implants.

Finally, NanoMarkets sees the battery market as a good market for novel nanocoatings, which seem likely 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 and electrical conductivity enhancement of bipolar metal plates in much the same way that they are in batteries, however, fuel cells remain in the early development stage. Most coatings are metallic (platinum, palladium, or ferrous nanopowder) and are applied to the electrodes to act as a catalyst. In the 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 types of solar panels. The most stable part of this market is the top electrode for c-Si PV, which invariably uses screened silver for the front electrode and silver or more recently, less costly aluminum for the back 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 oxide derivatives. Organic (OPV) and dye sensitive cell (DSC) photovoltaics claim niche applications (portable power, embedded power, and certain building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV)) that NanoMarkets believes 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 ITO substitute.

Displays: ITO is the major conductive coating used in LCD display applications, which dominate the display market. Some other TCOs and polymers do find limited application, and silver is used in PDP displays. The requirements for electrode materials are also shifting, however, as next-generation displays (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 has intensified 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 good prospects for market growth over the next decade. There is significant interest in this sector in replacing ITO because of the high resistivity of ITO threatens to create brightness variations across larger lighting surfaces.

Military, National Security and Aerospace: These sectors require high-performance EMC products and thus are an important market for EMC materials. In addition, military applications are not as concerned with cost minimization as consumer products are, but size and weight are often critical. This situation 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 may help to achieve the lower costs and reliable performance necessary for broad commercial implementation.

Other opportunities for EMC materials suppliers include developing materials that are better at dissipating radar signals and supplying materials for radar stations for air traffic control, weather monitoring, and military uses.

Sensors: Sensors use almost every commercially available conductive material, but the market is difficult to assess because it is so fragmented, both in terms of potential customers and the number of different applications. Therefore, while the aggregate amount of conductive coating material consumed by the sensor sector might actually be quite large, it is hard to pinpoint sizeable individual opportunities.

Potentially significant future applications

If RFID ultimately replaces the barcode, volume markets for RFID tags would be measured in the trillions, but this is unlikely to happen any time soon. For conductive coatings, RFID antennas are the primary application and typically use thin film silver or nanosilver.

Smart textiles are fabrics that are interwoven or printed with electronics. The technology remains in its infancy, with the only measurable use in the military and some medical environments. These products are mostly made of optical fibers, which are fragile and uncomfortable to wear. Conductive coating producers are currently developing metallic, conductive polymer, and carbon nanotube-containing coatings for this application.

Smart windows are coated with conductive films based on metal oxides and sometimes carbon nanotubes and are used to provide enhanced energy efficiency, indoor comfort and even to create positive mood effects. In addition, electrochromic materials are coated on glass so that the transparency changes with the level of sunlight.

More information can be found in the report “Conductive Coatings Markets, 2010 and Beyond” by NanoMarkets.

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