Significant improvements in luminous efficacies in light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and current densities in power electronics necessitate efficient and cost-effective thermal management solutions. Where incumbent secondary heat sinks like aluminum and thermal interface materials like thermal grease, pads, and fillers have been traditionally used, conductive polymers look to substitute these traditional materials in different applications. The question is, how much will these emerging materials solutions displace the incumbents over the coming decade?
The overall thermal management materials market will reach $4.8 billion in 2020, with LED lighting being the primary driver. The LED lighting thermal management market for secondary heat sinks and Thermal Interface Materials (TIMs) combined will grow from $1.5 billion in 2013 to $3.8 billion in 2020. The smart phone and tablet thermal materials market will triple from about $100 million in 2013 to more than $300 million in 2020, while the thermal materials market for solar micro inverters as well as the HEV/EV power module market will grow from about $28 million in 2013 to over $170 million in 2020, a CAGR of 29%. Importantly for polymer materials developers, conductive polymer developers are set for a major move over this same time period. The total conductive polymer addressable market will grow from $280 million in 2013 to $1.9 billion in 2020, a CAGR of over 31%. Polymer secondary heat sinks in general lighting will account for a majority of this market share, reaching $1.1 billion in 2020, due mostly to replacement of bulky aluminum secondary heat sinks in the residential market near term and commercial market medium to longer term. This growth is mainly driven by the sheer volumes in the general LED lighting industry. The auto LED secondary heat sink market will account for only about $92 million in 2020. The volumes in the auto LED market are substantially lower compared to the general LED lighting industry, although will allow for potentially higher priced products due to specificity. The total polymer TIM market will grow from $280 million in 2013 to $785 million in 2020, a CAGR of 16% largely due to adoption in smart phones and tablets as well as in general LED lighting as TIM.
The consumer electronics segment offers additional value for companies looking for opportunities for materials-enabled innovation. Rather than be restricted by size (area) and shape, as is the case of TIMs for LEDs, microinverters and HEV/EV power modules, polymers for electronics such as tablets and smart phones will migrate to encompass the entire body of the smart phone or tablet – making heat dissipation more effective and in the process lowering the bar for polymer thermal conductivity. This will push the boundaries of innovation in conductive polymers where aesthetics such as color and texture will become important metrics for adoption.
As with many materials-to-device integrations, partnerships will be critical to success. Already, alliances such as Philips-DSM not only reinstated Philips as a leader in innovation in LEDs but DSM’s polycarbonate solution became commercially validated as a dependable thermal management solution for MR16 bulbs made by Philips. Across LED lighting, automotive lighting, consumer electronics and larger format power electronics, device manufacturers and materials developers can mutually enable the other’s success.
Source: Lux Research report “Cooling Heats Up: Sizing the Opportunity for Conductive Polymers in Thermal Management” — client registration required.