Organic electronics involves thin film transistors and displays for electronic products, where the key component is organic and all parts are expected to be organic in due course. It cannot be understood on this narrow basis, however, because we now have organic lasers, fuel cells, batteries, photodetectors and much more besides, with every prospect that they will be co-deposited using similar inks at high speeds on similar, or the same, equipment. That means lower cost electronics and electrics, with greater reliability due to fewer interconnects and improved tolerance of damage. But the big picture also involves the replacement of most lighting with slimmer, flexible organic alternatives with lower costs and better environmental credentials.
The big picture has to involve a twenty year timeframe because some of this will take a long time. IDTechEx has therefore researched and newly published a report "Organic Electronics Forecasts, Players, Opportunities 2005-2025". Uniquely, it encompasses all applications and that vital, long timeframe. Developers of inks, printing equipment and processes can now see the full scope of their opportunity.
"We have also tried to avoid the over optimism of many surveys in the past," says primary author Dr Peter Harrop, "Progress is exponential, not linear, and, although the organic electronics business may be $4.75 billion in 2010, with OLED displays making nearly all the running, by 2015, startling progress on a broad front will be visible and by 2025, the business will rival silicon chips in size - yet, oddly, not impacting silicon chip sales much at all."
A $30 billion business in 2015?
IDTechEx finds that organic electronics will be a $30 billion business in 2015 mainly due to logic, displays and lighting. It will be a $250 billion business in 2025, with at least ten billion dollars sales from logic/ memory, OLED displays for electronic products, OLED billboard, signage etc, non-emissive organic displays, OLED lighting, batteries and photovoltaics, with sensors etc almost at that level. And almost all of these products will be printed, flexible, laminar constructions using the same or similar processes. Important other products such as laminar organic fuel cells and organic electrostatic and RF protection are also in the forecasts.
Creating new markets
Contrary to popular opinion, IDTechEx finds that much of the new organic market will be newly created and not replacing anything electronic. With the greying of populations, it will permit automatic diagnosis and automatic delivery of drugs. It will make smart packaging feasible and commonplace, including sharply improved mechandising, involving moving colour images, speech, interactivity, use by dates that change when they detect overheating or a product being opened. Remotely updated organic electronic signage and advertising in supermarkets will replace throwaway printed paper. Organic electronics will put lighting in places where it could not previously be fitted and give us electronic wallpaper and windows.
Where existing electronic and electric products are impacted, the extent will be varied. Examples of organic electronics tackling different conventional device technologies and applications are shown below. The red sectors indicate considerable potential substitution of incumbent technologies whereas the others may see more sales of the organic option being created mainly by new applications rather than substitution of existing products.
Unprecedented impact on industry
IDTechEx believes that there are few other technologies that will have such an impact on industry in the next twenty years. Organic electronics in the form of smart packaging, electronic billboards, posters, signage and electronic books will impact the conventional printing and publishing industry. Organic lighting will severely dent sales of both incandescent and fluorescent lighting in the second decade from now.
Markets by territory
IDTechEx looks at territorial trends as well. China will be buying most of the organic electronic components in due course (forecasts are given) because China will be making most of the electronic equipment that incorporates them such as computers and television. However, that will not be true of organic electronic billboards, posters and lighting, for example. Organic electronics offers opportunities to all countries. It also spawns many niche markets such as non-emissive displays, which include electrophoretic, electrochromic and other versions, where companies such as Aveso and Ntera will find prosperous niches alongside giants such as Philips and Sony concentrating on other versions and applications. Indeed, alliances are the order of the day in all forms of organic electronics.
Problems that are opportunities
IDTechEx sees a big mismatch between evolving market need and potential suppliers and their progress. For example, whereas organic logic and OLEDs have large numbers of developers and proponents, in accord with their massive potential, there are relatively few companies trying to produce inks sufficiently conductive for most printed electrodes, interconnects and antennas. Large memory is also needed. One gigabyte of non-volatile memory on a fleck of plastic the size of a postage stamp and costing two cents is one dream. The market opportunities for such technology are enormous, yet the number of companies working on organic megamemory is minimal. It can delay many applications of organic logic. IDTechEx spots the problems that are opportunities and summarises the thrust of a large number of today's participants in the organic electronic scene and, given the fact that the industry is drowning in jargon, the report incorporates the IDTechEx Encyclopaedia of Organic Electronics.
For more information, see the report contents here