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The market trends in the consumer electronics industry is tending toward devices that demonstrate a high degree of flexibility, such that they can be folded down to smaller devices or rolled easily. Consumer interests for large-sized, touch sensitive screens capable of ten-finger gestures, are also continuously increasing. At the same time, the cost of the materials used, and the cost of processing should be low enough to enable the price of the consumer electronics devices to be kept stabilized. OLED lighting, wearable electronics, and smart windows are expected to show market presence in the next five years, and therefore the materials used in consumer electronics should keep pace with the innovations.
Indium Tin Oxide (ITO) dominates the consumer electronics market, and is the material of choice for fabricating transparent conducting films (TCFs). While the material offers high conductivity, high optical transmittance, and low haze, its involves expensive vacuum deposition processes for fabricating the TCFs. The cost of indium also fluctuates significantly according to the market demand for ITO, and material is too brittle to be fabricated into largearea touch displays. This drives demand for ITO replacement materials in the consumer electronics industry.
The key ITO replacement materials are conductive polymers, silver nanowires, copper nanowires, metal mesh wires, carbon nanotubes (CNTs), and graphene. While silver nanowires have developed sufficiently enough in the innovation space to be used as alternative materials in consumer electronics, metal mesh wires and CNTs are expected to have significant impact on the market as well in the next few years. Although graphene is considered an ideal replacement material for ITO, its development is still in the research stages.
ITO is unlikely to be entirely replaced in the consumer electronics industry owing to its field reliability and proven performance capabilities in the next 2 to 3 years. Unless the price and availability of indium significantly changes, ITO is expected to continue having industry presence. However, alternative materials could also be expected to have market impact for next-generation applications where ITO is deemed unsuitable and potential adoption can be realized in large scale after three years and above.
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