The Market for Organic and Printed Electronics
It is becoming urgent to replace certain inorganic materials
There is now one deep concern that impacts both organic and inorganic thin film and printed electronics and it is the increasingly widespread use of indium tin oxide. Over the last few years, the price of indium leapt from around $60 per kilogram to around $1000 per kilogram and, although there was some respite in 2006, shortages and severe price hikes are in prospect in the future. For transparent electrodes in OLEDs, ac electroluminescent displays and many other applications we need printable alternatives. These transparent conductive inks must be suitable for low cost flexible substrates sold in huge quantities. Improvements to PEDOT have something to offer, a European Community research program is improving printable antimony tin oxide for low temperature curing and Unidym offers a new transparent carbon. However, none are, as yet widely adopted because of perceived shortcomings.
We need better alternatives to printed silver if only because of the current cost and potential shortages. At least the use of nano-silver is helping delay the problem because one tenth of the material is needed per device. Rare earths and other precious elements are also widely used in thin film devices intended for volume use. The words “rare” and “volume” sit awkwardly together.
Totally new capabilities
Replacing a mobile phone display with a somewhat better one thanks to OLEDs or electrophoretics does not release the supplier from the very tough price competition in that industry. By contrast, creating totally new products and concepts can be highly lucrative and a delight to users.
Here comes the magic
It is now realised that organic and printed electronics is the doorway to a considerable number of new possibilities. For example, some viewers complained that a recent James Bond film had entered the realms of fantasy by having a disappearing car. However, perfectly adaptive electronic camouflage is now a military program. People laughed at the talking, all knowing shop windows in the film Minority Report but talking windows appeared in London three years later. They did not know your preferences and address you by name, but some of that capability is now in the laboratory.