Printed and organic electronics (POE) are based on the combination of new materials and cost-effective, large-area production processes that open up expansive new fields of application. The technology has the potential to be a game-changer across the board, and the imagination runs wild with the profound implications of POE for the smart buildings industry.
Thin, lightweight, flexible and environmentally friendly electronics – that’s what organic electronics promises to deliver. It also enables a wide range of electrical components that can be produced and directly integrated in low-cost reel-to-reel processes.
Intelligent packaging, OLED lighting (organic LED), printed multi functional systems, roll-able touch-screen displays, organic photovoltaic’s (OPV), disposable diagnostic devices, all manner of new games, responsive textiles, and even printed batteries are just a few examples of promising fields of application for POE based on new large-scale, processable, electrically conductive, and semi-conducting materials.
IDTechEx report that the total market for printed, flexible and organic electronics will grow from $29.80 billion in 2015 to $73.69 billion in 2025. While a report by Allied Market Research suggests organic electronics could enjoy a compound annual growth rate of 29.5%, propelling the industry to a global market worth of $79.5 billion as soon as 2020.
The consensus seems to be that the majority of revenue will come from OLEDs and conductive ink used for a wide range of applications. On the other hand, stretchable electronics, logic and memory, thin film sensors represent much smaller segments but hold huge growth potential as they emerge from the initial R&D phase.
You can read more about OLEDs and the current market for LEDs in our report "LED Lighting in Buildings 2014 to 2018" - http://memoori.com/portfolio/led-lighting-in-buildings-2014-to-2018/
Organic electronics can be used independently, but also as part of a heterogeneous system combining printed and organic components and silicon, each where they make the most sense. These heterogeneous systems will be especially important in the first generations of products.
POE have already started appearing in many everyday products, somewhat under the radar. POE in OLED smart phone displays, e-readers, printed electrodes for several medical applications as well as printed light sources, electro-chromic self-dimming rear-view mirrors, and printed antennae for automotive applications have been on the market on a large scale for several years.
Organic PV and advanced OLED lighting-based products, smart packaging, flexible batteries, printed memory, transparent conductive films for touch displays, smart pharmaceutical blister packages for field trials and smart cards with built-in displays for password applications are expected become widely used within 3 to 4 years.
The combination of speciality materials with low-cost, large-area fabrication processes (such as printing) enables thin, lightweight, flexible and low-cost electronics. This means that integrated circuits, sensors, displays, memory, photovoltaic cells or batteries can be made out of plastic. POE also hold the opportunity, rather than the attribute, of being very “green” and sustainable. Factors determining sustainability of POE include the choice and efficient use of materials, environmentally friendly production, power efficiency as well as recyclability and disposal of products. POE is expected to follow the “green” trend seen across many new technology sectors, however cost saving maybe achievable through disregard for the environment, leading many to describe “not being green” as the opportunity for POE.
Perhaps the leading POE application for smart buildings, however, is inherently green – electricity generating organic PV (OPV). As the power industry continues to trend from centralised to distributed, there is a growing consensus that distributed OPV systems that provide electricity at the point of use will be the first to reach widespread commercialisation. Chief among these distributed OPV applications are building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV).
BIPV encompasses a group of solar technologies that are built directly into the envelope of the host building, instead of mounted on the building's exterior. Whether it's a roof, a window, a façade, or a curtain wall, BIPV modules can actually replace the construction materials that would otherwise be incorporated into such surfaces. BIPV performs the same functions as the replaced structures while at the same time generating electricity for onsite use.
Importantly, because BIPV may displace some building materials and often does not require rack mounting, there may be an offset value to BIPV technologies that can be recovered in the construction process and ultimately drive down installation costs. In fact, a recently published US National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) report on BIPV costs in the US residential sector, finds that BIPV possesses the near-term potential to compete with, and perhaps undercut, c-Si flat panel installation prices. This is especially true for new build, where some installation costs can be folded into construction costs.
And even if BIPV cannot edge out flat panels on cost, it retains the advantage of aesthetics. Technological developments such as module transparency, the increasing availability of colour options, and flexible form factors have extended BIPV's market reach, and it is expected that some consumers will pay premiums to get an aesthetically pleasing system, as opposed to the garden-variety, add-on flat-panel system.
OPV, and its BIPV potential, is just one of many POE application which will be breaking significant ground in the smart building industry in the coming years. Indeed, sensor rich, IoT enabled, internal building materials such as tiles, fabrics and counter tops, are likely to catch the future seeking consumer imaginations even more in the coming years.
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