In 2013 the market size for gold ink for electronic and electrical applications is less than $1 million - used mainly for academic work and some early stage work in healthcare products. However, a new report from IDTechEx Research titled New Opportunities for Gold: Conductive Inks for the Electronics Industry 2013-2019 finds that with demand from medical applications, edge connectors and interfaces with organic materials such as sensors the market will growth to $50 million in 2018, in the "most likely" scenario.
There are several organizations using nano-particle gold inks today and others who make it internally but do not sell it externally, but most of the work is for R&D and some way from commercialization. The high cost of gold is the biggest barrier for adoption, and if it can be avoided alternatives will usually be used on a cost basis alone. However, there are uniques of gold that make it suitable for some specific applications.
Applications that need gold ink
From the interviews conducted by IDTechEx with suppliers and users, the most compelling applications for gold ink are:
- As electrodes for medical applications, where silver electrodes can damage the sensing material due to silver migration
- Interfacing electrode with organic materials such as organic semiconductors for TFTs, memory and photo detectors
- Contacts/edge connectors where a highly conductive non tarnish surface is needed
Fig.1 Schematic of the tunable color filter. The combination of a gold film with ring-shaped holes and the use of liquid crystals (red and green) enables pixels of a defined color that can be turned on and off
© 2012 Y. J. Liu, Source: IDTechEx Report New Opportunities for Gold: Conductive Inks for the Electronics Industry 2013-2019
There are also many novel uses of gold ink, being developed now, such as its use in "fourth generation" photovoltaics, and combining its electrical properties with its aesthetic qualities in devices such as helmet visors and touch switches.
The stability (no tarnishing, no oxidizing) that gold inks provide could be the non-compromising solution that, if applied in a way that doesn't utilise large amounts of the bulk material, could establish routes to becoming cost effective in niche markets. All this results in IDTechEx seeing the market move from $720,000 in 2013 to a $50 million market in 2018. For more information read our full analysis in the report New Opportunities for Gold: Conductive Inks for the Electronics Industry 2013-2019 www.IDTechEx.com/gold.
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