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Market Research Report

Barrier Films for Flexible Electronics 2013-2023, Needs Players & Opportunities

Published by IDTechEx Ltd. Product code 235009
Published Content info 82 Pages
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Barrier Films for Flexible Electronics 2013-2023, Needs Players & Opportunities
Published: September 1, 2013 Content info: 82 Pages

This publication has been discontinued on November 8, 2014.


A large opportunity lies in the development of devices in a flexible form factor that can operate without deterioration in performance, allowing them to be more robust, lightweight and versatile in their use. In order for flexible displays and photovoltaics to be commercially successful, they must be robust enough to survive for the necessary time and conditions required of the device. This condition has been a limitation of many flexible, organic or printable electronics. This highlights the fact that beyond flexibility, printability and functionality, one of the most important requirements is encapsulation as many of the materials used in printed or organic electronic displays are chemically sensitive, and will react with many environmental components such as oxygen and moisture.

These materials can be protected using substrates and barriers such as glass and metal, but this results in a rigid device and does not satisfy the applications demanding flexible devices. Plastic substrates and transparent flexible encapsulation barriers can be used, but these offer little protection to oxygen and water, resulting in the devices rapidly degrading.

In order to achieve device lifetimes of tens of thousands of hours, water vapor transmission rates (WVTR) must be 10-6 g/m2/day, and oxygen transmission rates (OTR) must be < 10-3 cm3/m2/day. For Organic Photovoltaics, the required WVTR is not as stringent as OLEDs require but is still very high at a level of 10-5 g/m2/day. These transmission rates are several orders of magnitude smaller than what is possible using any conventional plastic substrate, and they can also be several orders of magnitude smaller than what can be measured using common equipment designed for this purpose.


For these (and other) reasons, there has been intense interest in developing transparent barrier materials with much lower permeabilities, a market that will reach over $240 Million by 2023.


This report from IDTechEx gives an in-depth review of the needs, emerging solutions and players. It addresses specific topics such as:

  • Companies which are active in the development of high barrier films and their achievements on the field to date. The report covers a range of approaches in encapsulation, such as dyads, deposition of inorganic layers on plastic substrates and flexible glass.
  • Surface smoothness and defects (such as cracks and pinholes) and the effect that these would have on the barrier behavior of the materials studied.
  • Traditional methods of measurement of permeability are reaching the end of their abilities. The MOCON WVTR measurement device, which has been an industry standard, cannot give adequate measurements at the low levels of permeability required for technologies such as organic photovoltaics and OLEDs. Other methods of measurement and equipment developed are being discussed.
  • Forecasts for displays, lighting and thin film photovoltaics (in terms of market value as well as area of barrier film sold into different verticals), in order to understand the influence that the development of flexible barriers would have at the mass deployment and adoption of these technologies.

For those developing flexible electronics, seeking materials needs and opportunities, this is a must-read report.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents




  • 3.1. Important considerations of surface smoothness
  • 3.2. Micro Defects
    • 3.2.1. Crystalline regions
    • 3.2.2. Pinholes
    • 3.2.3. Smoothness / Cracks-Scratches
    • 3.2.4. Nanodefects


  • 4.1. Vitex
  • 4.2. GE




  • 7.1. Deposition of dyads or inorganic layers on polymer substrates
    • 7.1.1. Toppan Printing
    • 7.1.2. Vitriflex
    • 7.1.3. Holst Centre - TNO
    • 7.1.4. Mitsubishi
    • 7.1.5. Toray Industries Inc
    • 7.1.6. 3M
    • 7.1.7. Amcor
    • 7.1.8. Tera-Barrier
  • 7.2. Other companies developing polymer-based films
    • 7.2.1. Fujifilm
    • 7.2.2. UDC
    • 7.2.3. Dow Chemical
    • 7.2.4. Jindal
    • 7.2.5. Konica Minolta
  • 7.3. Flexible glass
    • 7.3.1. Schott AG
    • 7.3.2. Corning
    • 7.3.3. Asahi Glass Company (AGC)
    • 7.3.4. Nippon Electric Glass (NEG)
  • 7.4. Other approaches
    • 7.4.1. NM Technologies
    • 7.4.2. 3M


  • 8.1. OLED displays - OLED lighting
  • 8.2. OTFTs
  • 8.3. Liquid Crystal Displays - Electrophoretic Displays
  • 8.4. OPV
  • 8.5. CIGS - amorphous Si


  • 9.1. The Calcium test
  • 9.2. MOCON
  • 9.3. Illinois Instruments
  • 9.4. Fluorescent Tracers
  • 9.5. Black Spot Analysis
  • 9.6. Tritium Test
  • 9.7. CEA
  • 9.8. 3M
  • 9.9. IMRE
  • 9.10. Mass Spectroscopy - gas permeation (WVTR & OTR potential applications)


  • 10.1. The potential significance of organic and printed inorganic electronics
  • 10.2. Barrier films market size
  • 10.3. Flexible glass or inorganic layers on plastic substrates?





  • 2.1. Water vapor and oxygen transmission rates of various materials
  • 2.2. Requirements of barrier materials
  • 3.1. Oxygen transmission rates of polypropylene with various coatings
  • 7.1. Overview of main performance metrics for some of the most important developers
  • 9.1. Lower detection limits of several barrier performance measurement techniques
  • 10.1. Leading market drivers 2023
  • 10.2. Barrier layer area forecasts 2013-2023 in square meters
  • 10.3. Barrier layer market forecasts 2013-2023 in US$ thousands


  • 1.1. Example of a flexible OLED display by Samsung
  • 1.2. Universal Display Corporation's flexible encapsulation used in OLED lighting panels
  • 1.3. Flexible solar cell developed by Fraunhofer ISE
  • 2.1. Schematic diagrams for encapsulated structures a) conventional b) laminated c) deposited in situ
  • 2.2. Scanning electron micrograph image of a barrier film cross section
  • 3.1. Visual defects of a selection of materials with barrier films highlighted through calcium corrosion test. Optical microscope magnification 10x
  • 3.2. SEM pictures of the Atmospheric Plasma Glow Discharge deposited silica-like films on polymer substrates. Left: Film with embedded dust particles . Right: uniform film
  • 3.3. OTR as a function of defect density, the correlation between defect density and the oxygen transmission rate
  • 3.4. SEM image of a pinhole defect formed from a dust particle
  • 3.5. Scanning electron microscope image of ITO coated on parylene/polymer film
  • 3.6. The measurement of OLED's lifetime of SiON/PC/ITO and SiON/parylene/PC/parylene/ITO substrate
  • 4.1. Examples of polymer multi-layer (PML) surface planarization a) OLED cathode separator structure b) high aspect ratio test structure
  • 4.2. Vitex multilayer deposition process
  • 4.3. SEM cross section of Vitex Barix material with four dyads
  • 4.4. Optical transmission of Vitex Barix coating
  • 4.5. Edge seal barrier formation by deposition through shadow masks
  • 4.6. Three dimensional barrier structure. Polymer is shown in red, and oxide (barrier) shown in blue
  • 4.7. Schematic of flexible OLED with hybrid encapsulation
  • 4.8. Schematic of cross section of graded barrier coating and complete barrier film structure
  • 4.9. Transparency of GE's UHB film versus wavelength
  • 5.1. Scanning electron micrograph of a thin hybrid polymer coating on SiOx deposited on a flexible PET film
  • 5.2. OTR values achieved with different POLO multilayers
  • 6.1. Area sealing
  • 6.2. DELO's light curing adhesive solution for electrophoretic displays
  • 6.3. Performance characteristics of DELO's light-curing materials
  • 7.1. Calcium test results demonstrating superior WVTR performance
  • 7.2. 3M barrier film development roadmap
  • 7.4. Electron Beam evaporation of Silicon Oxide.
  • 7.5. Tera Barrier Films design and concept
  • 7.6. Performance graph of the UDC transparent barrier layer (Universal Barrier Technology)
  • 7.7. Corning flexible glass showcased at SID 2011
  • 7.8. AGC's ultra-thin sheet glass on carrier glass and rolled into a coil
  • 7.9. OLED lighting panel by NEG
  • 7.10. Lithium ion battery combined with an a-Si solar cell
  • 9.1. 2.25 m m2 area of a 50 nm layer of Ca deposited onto barrier coated PET viewed through the substrate. i. Image after 1632 h of exposure to atmosphere; ii. Image analysis whereby the grey scale of Ca degradation is processed to yie
  • 9.2. A simple set-up for measuring optical transmission of calcium test cells
  • 9.3. MOCON's Aquatran™ Model 138
  • 9.4. MOCON's Aquatran™ schematic
  • 9.5. MOCON's OX-TRAN® Model 2/1039
  • 9.6. Silica induced black spots, letters A & B mark black spots with a centralized black dot (silica particle)
  • 9.7. Black spot formation and growth mechanisms
  • 9.8. General Atomics HTO WVTR testing apparatus
  • 10.1. Leading market drivers 2023
  • 10.2. Barrier layer area forecasts 2013-2023 in square meters
  • 10.3. Barrier layer market forecasts 2013-2023 in US$ thousands
  • 10.4. Corning's Flexible glass with protective tabbing on the edges
  • 11.1. Examples of rigid e-readers by Amazon and Barnes & Noble
  • 11.2. The Wexler flexible e-reader
  • 11.3. Lithium test sample with thin film encapsulation after 24 hrs in the damp heat test at 85°C/85% relative humidity. B. Similar lithium test sample after 200 hrs in the same damp heat test with optimized barrier structure
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