Third Generation Solar Cells to be Built Into Products Like Building Materials and Consumer Electronics

The third-generation of photovoltaics (PV - organic PV (OPV) and dye sensitized cells (DSC) - are in the early stages of development but hold out the promise of cheap solar power that can be integrated into consumer electronics and building materials, according to a Webinar presented this morning by NanoMarkets, LC, an industry analyst firm based here. In the presentation, NanoMarkets discussed the current state of the OPV and DSC materials markets and expectations for the future of these technologies over the next eight years. The firm does expect these technologies to be impacted by the current recessionary environment but still sees growth opportunities.

The firm has released a CD ROM of the event with audio and presentation slides. Please visit for further details.

More about the Webinar:

As background, the first two generations of PV are crystalline silicon (c-Si) and thin-film inorganic PV (TFPV), which includes amorphous silicon (a-Si), copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS), and cadmium telluride (CdTe). The majority of the PV market currently relies on c-Si (represents about 70 percent of the overall global market). However, thin film technologies are gaining ground as they offer solar cells that can be produced on flexible substrates. And while these inorganic TFPV technologies address some of the issues associated with c-Si, they still rely on expensive materials.

This is where OPV and DSC come in. The value proposition offered by third-generation PV is the promise of significantly lower material costs combined with lower manufacturing costs because these technologies can be adapted for high-speed roll-to-roll (R2R) production. However, OPV and DSC are in the early stages of development, and as such there is uncertainty around their ability to fulfill this potential. On the other hand, this uncertainty brings opportunities to materials suppliers.

To quantify this opportunity, NanoMarkets expects the market for materials used in OPV and DSC cells to grow from $55.3 million this year, to about $576 million in 2016. By the end of the eight-year forecast period, most of the opportunity will come from building integrated PV (BIPV) applications. OPV and DSC offer a unique solution in BIPV because they are not only thin and flexible and therefore can be combined with building materials, but they maintain efficiency conversion at relatively low light conditions.

For the OPV device, NanoMarkets expects the majority of materials revenues to come from the acceptor and donor materials, which will account for about 65 percent of the OPV material revenues by 2016. The second largest revenue generator for OPV will be encapsulation materials, which will become more and more important as these devices shift toward the use of plastic substrates. For DSC devices, the host material will generate the majority of the revenues from materials (80-85 percent by 2016), followed by encapsulation materials.

That being said, NanoMarkets expects to see relatively significant opportunities for suppliers of encapsulation materials. These materials will be required to prevent the device’s exposure to oxygen and water vapor, thus extending the useful life of these devices. Current solutions rely on a second layer of substrate or similar material, but this requires that the edges be sealed. An alternate approach being offered by Vitex is an oxide/polymer multiple layer, which is sold under the brand Barix.

This brings up an important point - the materials and process technologies for OPV and DSC are in flux. As such, suppliers will have to take on a certain amount of risk in committing to the production of one of these materials. One way to ensure traction when these markets take off is to partner up with device manufacturers early on. Suppliers must up with what the manufacturers are looking for and establish themselves as competent and reliable providers which will be paramount to retaining a lead as a materials supplier in these markets. At the same time, suppliers must have the ability to ramp up to commercial volumes when the time is right.

In conclusion, NanoMarkets sees some opportunity over the next eight years for materials suppliers in the OPV and DSC space. And while the overall materials market will be less than $600 million in 2016 the firm sees strategic reasons for getting into this business.

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