ITO alternatives for transparent conductors: From nanotubes to ZnO, adoption varies

August 1, 2012 — NanoMarkets announced a new report on the transparent conductor (TC) market which includes the dominant indium tin oxide (ITO), along with other transparent conducting oxides (TCOs), conductive polymers, silver grids and coatings, copper, carbon nanotubes and graphene and nanocomposite materials of various kinds.

Most firms offering alternatives to ITO focus on the touch-screen sensor market; however, this sector is too small for many of these firms to generate significant revenues.

Also read: Soaring indium costs drive hunt for alternative in transparent electrodes

NanoMarkets believes that the current rapid development of the organic light-emitting diode (OLED) display and lighting market could boost the makers of non-ITO TCs. While ITO is widely used in OLEDs it is not well suited to this application. The OLED sector is already beginning to seek alternative TCs.

ITO also may not work well in high-throughput roll-to-roll (R2R) processes used to manufacture flexible displays. ITO cannot be used in rollable displays, due to its material nature. Flexible displays, primed to become a sizable market, could be major contributors to the mainstream adoption of ITO alternatives for TC.

NanoMarkets expects a resurgence in thin-film solar panels for use in building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV). This will boost firms selling tin oxide (SnO) and zinc oxide (ZnO) materials and there is considerable research activity currently seeking the best dopants for these materials for TC applications.

Silver-based TCs seem to have taken off commercially and can now be found in a number of commercial cellphone models.

Nanotube-based TCs have made little commercial progress, although a few well-funded firms — Samsung, Linde and Toray, for example — still back this approach.

Meanwhile, Agfa, Heraeus and Kodak seem to be making progress with their low-cost conductive polymer TCs. The materials have considerable potential for growth in small displays for electronic labels and smartcards.

NanoMarkets provides in-depth analysis of the applications from which TC firms will be able to make money in the next few years including touch-screens, OLEDs, e-paper, thin-film and BIPV, organic/DSC PV, smart windows, etc. The report examines implications for TCs of the rise of flexible and transparent electronics and provides an in-depth discussion of how non-ITO TCs may be able to break into the LCD market. For each application the report contains separate eight-year forecasts in terms of value ($ millions) and volume (square meters). Each forecast is also broken out by material type.

Firms discussed in the report including 3M, Agfa, Asahi Glass, Atmel, Cambrios, Cima NanoTech, Corning, Dow Chemical, Evonik, Ferro, Fujitsu, Harima Chemicals, Heraeus, Hitachi, Idemitsu Kosan, Indium Corporation, Kodak, LG, Linde, Mitsubishi, Mitsui, Nippon Mining and Metals, Nitto Denko, PolyIC, Pilkington, Saint-Gobain, Samsung, Schott, SKC, Sony, Oike, Sumitomo, Teijin, Toray, Tosoh, Ulvac, Umicore, Unidym, and many others.

NanoMarkets tracks and analyzes emerging market opportunities in energy, electronics and other markets created by developments in advanced materials. Visit for a full listing of NanoMarkets’ reports and other services.

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