What We’re Seeing Now in CNT Transparent Conductors

Most interestingly, in the past year or two n-tech Research has seen that some Asian firms—most notably CNTouch (part of Foxconn)—have developed low-performance CNT preparations that are already being used in equally low-end Chinese cell phones. This indicates that CNT TCs may now compete with conductive polymers, rather than ITO.

We also note that there are other emerging strategies for CNT TCs. Canatu, for example, is considering a strongly value-added approach, emphasizing how its “NanoBuds” (a mixture of nanotubes and fullerenes) are suitable for a broad range of touch applications, essentially extending the addressable market for CNT TCs into the booming gestural control and recognition business. Canatu also is positioning its NanoBuds as directly competitive with silver nanowires, having better optical performance as well as very low reflectivity and haze.

There is also research into exploring hybrid TC alternatives, combining CNTs and Ag NWs. Chinese researchers in October 2014 disclosed a CNT/Ag NW-PET hybrid film, whereby the AG NWs form the main conductive networks, with CNTs the assistant conductive networks filling in the spaces between them. Sheet resistance was shown to reach roughly 21-54 Ω/square with optical transmittance of 84%-91%. The film was created in a two-step “mechanical pressing technique,” which served to reduce surface roughness and enhance adhesion forces between the materials.

In 2015, n-tech expects CNTs to break into new markets, notably OLEDs, for the first time, although revenues will be very small. We also think that antistatics may end up making a major contribution to the revenues for CNT TCs producers over the next eight years, with the arrival on the scene of low-performance CNTs.

We also see, again in a longer-term scope, penetration into the LCD market, as well as a significant role in the thin-film PV (TFPV) sector, though it is far from certain that TF PV firms are looking for what they have to offer, or even if TFPV will start to grow again in a solar panel world still dominated by c-Si panels.