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Looking Back at Printed Electronics in 2021, and how this Industry will Change in the Future


2021 brought on a lot of developments in the world of clean technology. We all realized how fragile our world is in these last several years, gaining a perspective on the importance of our planet and how we need to protect it. With everything that surrounded us in the last few years, many of us have seen firsthand the effects of climate change. And, with that, we’ve learned ways we can regrow that which we destroyed and protect that which still exists. One of the main ways companies can contribute is to lower their carbon footprint in the world.

The last few decades have brought about many new types of energy sources which we can use to power the planet. The days of fossil fuel are waning as more and more people adopt these new, cleaner sources of energy. Solar, wind, tidal, and geothermal are some of the energy sources which are being used. And, we are innovating more and more the way in which we deliver and use the energy from these clean technologies.

Solar energy is one of the top runners in terms of adoption, and the technology to create solar energy is developing more and more. When creating clean technology, one of the most important aspects is to deliver this technology in the most sustainable way possible. One of the technologies for the production of solar cells that is experiencing great attention is the use of printed electronics. By using organic semiconductor materials, which can be dissolved into inks and printed, we can now print solar cells, or organic photovoltaics (OPV), in a more sustainable, and easily scalable way compared to existing technologies.

2021 was an exciting year for organic semiconductors, here are a few of the highlights:

The printed electronics sector was valued at $9.9 Billion USD in 2021 and is expected to grow to $23 Billion by 2026! This growth demonstrates the impact of the rapid adoption of clean technologies.

The EU announced that they will focus on the energy efficiency of buildings as a core component of the EU climate policy. They will be doubling the energy renovation of buildings in the EU by 2030. OPV is one of the best suited technologies for increasing the energy efficiency of buildings. Organic materials have advantages like color tunability, flexibility, semi transparency and a high power/ weight ratio which make them very attractive for mass commercialization in the building integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) space. Examples of this include creating energy efficient glass, and flexible solar cells for indoor energy harvesting.

A milestone was made at the end of 2021 when a tandem organic solar cell reached 20.2% efficiency. This is exciting news for the industry, demonstrating the strides that this technology has taken in a short period of time. This also demonstrates to us the potential that organic solar cells have to continue to improve.

There were many other important industry developments this year, all which lead us to the same conclusion- that the adoption of cleaner technologies will only continue to grow. 2022 will certainly be a big year for organic semiconductors in this regard; as more and more people become aware of this technology and the expansive list of possible applications, it is only a matter of time until it is adopted across various industries. Some of the current applications include:

Organic Photovoltaics (OPV): The design and purity of organic semiconductors increase the performance and stability of organic printed solar modules. These can be used in many applications such as building-integrated and building-applied solar cells, IOT, wearable technologies, and many more.

Organic Photodetectors (OPD): imaging, sensing, and security applications from visible to short wave IR (in industries such as biomedical, electronics, imaging, etc.)

OLED displays and lighting: Fully printed displays and lighting solutions.

Organic thin film transistors: logic circuits, electrochemical sensing, flexible active matrix OTFT arrays (for applications in flexible electronics such as displays, sensors, etc.)

Electrochromic polymers: smart “color changing” glass for buildings, automotive applications.

With all of these applications spread across various industries, 2022 will see very exciting new technologies and results from organic semiconductors. The flexible and semi-transparent characteristics, combined with the scalability and reliability of this class of materials, makes it the perfect candidate to be a disruptive technology in 2022 and beyond.