Transparent Electronics: Technologies and Global Markets

Published - Aug 2010| Analyst - Kaustubha Parkhi| Code - IFT065A
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Report Highlights

  • BCC predicts that the market size for transparent electronics components will grow at a steady compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10% over the next 5 years. The market is valued at $76.4 billion in 2010 and is expected to reach $123 billion in 2015.
  • BCC forecasts an extremely promising future for the usage of organic material in transparent electronics and that its market share will increase from about 3% in 2010 to more than 16% in 2015. This sector is valued at $2.1 billion in 2010 and is expected to increase at a nearly 60% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) to $20.3 billion in 2015.
  • The inorganic material sector is worth an estimated $74 billion in 2010 and is expected to grow to $103 billion in 2015, a compound annual growth rate of 6.7%.

INTRODUCTION

DEFINITION
 
Transparent electronics means many things to many people. However, nowhere is it more pertinent to set the definition right as it is in the case of transparent electronics.
 
This report defines transparent electronics as that which deals with devices whose key functioning hinges on material with the following attributes:
  • Transparency to light
  • Conductance of electricity
“Transparent electronics” sounds exotic to the ears. The mystique of transparent electronics is further fueled by references to the wide variety of devices and applications that were hitherto out of bounds for mainstream electronics. This is however, just a limited aspect of the transparent electronic discussion. The surprising aspect is that while the discussion around transparent electronics tends to revolve around what the future holds, there is very limited realization that transparent electronics have been functioning for a good half a century in a wide variety of products and devices.
 
It is always a healthy sign for the technology when its future appears exciting; however transparent electronics is a deceptive on this count. The future is undeniably exciting, but its levers are firmly in the hands of a supply chain that is wedded to the past.
 
This report is an attempt to unravel the dynamics of transparent electronics.
 
STUDY GOALS AND OBJECTIVES
 
This study has the following goals and objectives:
  • Forecasting the market size for overall transparent electronics components based on inorganic material in value and volume terms.
  • Forecasting the market size for overall transparent electronics components based on organic material in value and volume terms. 
  • Breaking down the overall transparent electronics components based on the inorganic material market, on the basis of indium tin oxide (ITO) and other inorganic material.
  • Breaking down the overall transparent electronics components based on the organic material market, on the basis of conducting polymers and carbon nanotubes (CNT) and other nanomaterial.
  • Breaking down the overall transparent electronics components based on the organic and inorganic material market, on the basis of usage scenarios such solar and photovoltaic (PV) cells, touch surfaces, mainstream displays and unconventional substrates.
  • Breaking down the overall transparent electronics components based on the organic and inorganic material market, on the basis of end user device categories such as personal computing (PC), consumer electronics (CE), telecommunications, automotive, as well as scientific, industrial and other applications.
  • Breaking down the overall transparent electronics components based on the organic and inorganic material market, on the basis of geographical regions such as the Americas; Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA); and Asia–Pacific (APAC).
  • Breaking down the overall transparent electronics components market based on usage scenarios, on the basis of end user device categories such as personal computing (PC), consumer electronics (CE), telecommunications, automotive, as well as scientific, industrial and other applications.
  • Breaking down the overall transparent electronics components market based on usage scenarios, on the basis of geographical regions such as Americas; Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA); and Asia–Pacific (APAC).
  • Analyzing the applications, drivers and prospects for the overall transparent electronics components market with respect to different organic and inorganic material.
  • Analyzing the applications, drivers and prospects for the overall transparent electronics components market with respect to different usage scenarios.
  • Analyzing the stakeholder value chain in the transparent electronics market.
  • Analyzing the patenting activity involving transparent conductors.
REASONS FOR DOING THE STUDY
 
Transparent electronics is a market full of ironies in many ways. The dual nature of this market starts right with the name, which combines the unreal sounding attribute of transparency with electronics. This, unfortunately, is the least of the ironies.
 
Most of the hype surrounding transparent electronics is fueled by the exotic usage scenarios that it will engender: The idea of having electronic circuitry that is invisible to the human eye has few parallels in its appeal. There is an overwhelming popular discourse that this technology is being developed from scratch, when the reality is more mundane and humbling. Transparent electronics has been with U.S. for at least half a century. The core of transparent electronics, the transparent conductor, is neither a recent discovery nor is it unexplored vis–à–vis applications. Transparent conducting oxides (TCO), in general, and indium tin oxide (ITO), in particular, have a long history of usage in consumer electronics as well optical devices. They have been used for low profile applications such as cathode–ray tubes, electromagnetic shielding and other applications. The demand for these requirements was steady but limited and there were seemingly no supply side constraints.
 
The industry, however, was thrown for a loop when the world was confronted with the prospect of developing alternative energy sources. In came solar cells. The demand for solar cells is on the perennial ascendancy. These cells also use ITO and the industry began to feel the pinch on the supply side. The replacement of cathode–ray tubes (CRT) by liquid–crystal displays (LCD) put added strain on ITO availability. The touch surface revolution fueled by consumer electronics and telecommunication devices also had ITO as its material of choice. These seemingly different user scenarios gained traction in roughly the same short span of 4 to 5 years and suddenly, ITO became a scarce commodity. The final push to develop alternative material came from unconventional substrates, which will be discussed in this report.
 
This report analyzes the transparent electronics industry against this backdrop in regard to materials, stakeholder initiatives, patent activities, end application devices, usage scenarios and geographical regions.
 
SCOPE OF THE REPORT
 
The report forecasts the size of the market for transparent electronics components from 2010 through 2015.
 
The Executive Summary provides a snapshot of key findings of the report.
 
The chapter Introduction to Transparent Electronics assesses the technologies critical to understanding transparent electronics and clarifies key terms in the report. 
The chapter on materials touches the single most important variable in the transparent electronics industry and discusses the technical and commercial dynamics governing different organic and inorganic materials. 
 
The chapter on usage scenarios sheds light on the traditional and new–age drivers of transparent electronics and explains their implications for the different material types.
 
The chapter on vendor analysis explains the criterion for classification of stakeholder – mining experts, film fabricators, semiconductor majors, device original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), material and process innovators and research institutes. It also provides the latest information on the transparent electronics related initiatives of key companies in each category.
 
The U.S. Patent Analysis chapter highlights the patenting activity underway in the area of transparent conductors. The chapter classifies the patents awarded according to the activities involved in the synthesis, operations, applications and usage scenarios of transparent electronics components. It also provides a yearly, geographic, and distribution breakdown of these patents.
 
The report is punctuated with numerical findings and projections that substantiate and drive the theoretical discussion.
 
INTENDED AUDIENCE
 
This report will be relevant to the following:
  • Material and component suppliers of ITO
  • Semiconductor companies that need to keep tabs on, not just the market size for different materials and usage scenarios, but also on the latest in process and material innovation
  • Material and process innovators for market size assessments of the components embedding their materials and the primary users of their products
  • Device original equipment manufacturers for analyses of the technology and business strengths and weaknesses of components banking on a diverse material base
  • Universities and research institutes that wish to keep abreast of the activities of varied innovators in this domain
  • Foundries, fabless companies, engineering manufacturing service providers and other stakeholders in the mainstream electronics industry who wish to involve themselves in the transparent electronics network.
METHODOLOGY AND INFORMATION SOURCES
 
The report forecasts the market size for the following:
  • Inorganic material–based transparent electronics components. The material categories include ITO and other inorganic material.
  • Organic material–based transparent electronics components. The material categories include conducting polymer and CNT and other nanomaterial.
  • The definition of component differs according to usage scenario. The usage scenarios include solar/PV cells, touch surfaces, mainstream displays, and unconventional substrates.
The following metrics are forecast:
  • Value in millions of dollars
  • Volume in millions of units
  • Market by end–application categories such as telecommunications, PC, CE, automotive, as well as scientific, industrial and others
  • Market by geographical regions such as the Americas, EMEA and APAC
Both primary and secondary research methodologies were used in this study. Industry experts were interviewed; secondary sources included industry consortia, individual company financial statements, published opinions, and other published sources. 
 
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
 
Kaustubha Parkhi has worked in a broad range of functional roles with leading telecommunications operators and service providers such as Reliance Infocomm, Ramco Systems, and BPL Cellular. He has written on an array of telecommunications– and electronics–related subjects based on his critical analysis of the underlying technology and its business impact. Kaustubha holds a Bachelor of Engineering (Equivalent of Bachelor of Science) in Electronics and Telecommunications, and an MBA in Systems.
 
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DISCLAIMER
 
The information developed in this report is intended to be as reliable as possible at the time of publication and of a professional nature. This information does not constitute managerial, legal, or accounting advice; nor should it serve as a corporate policy guide, laboratory manual, or an endorsement of any product, as much of the information is speculative in nature. The author assumes no responsibility for any loss or damage that might result from reliance on the reported information or its use. 

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