Form factor is becoming a major driver shaping innovation and transforming the energy storage industry globally. This is fuelled by the emergence of new market categorises such as wearable electronic devices and Internet of Things (IoT), which demand thinness and flexibility. These needs add a new force to current prevalent market drivers such as cost reduction and power/energy density increases.
IDTechEx forecasts that thin and flexible energy storage devices will create a market in excess of $300m in 2024, at the device level. Importantly, IDTechEx also finds that the market will be in a state of rapid flux, undergoing major transformation, and in 2024 the composition of the market will look drastically different from its current condition. Major new markets will rise to prominence during the course of the coming decade, opening the door to new technologies and bringing with them new winners.
The brand new IDTechEx report Flexible, Printed and Thin Film Batteries 2015-2025 provides detailed technology assessments and benchmarking, ten-year market forecasts segmented by application and technology type, and detailed interview-based business intelligence and profiles on key players and large end-users from a variety of sectors.
Big players enter the foray
The interest in thin, flexible and printed batteries is rising fast. This is despite the technology having commercially existed for more than ten years. The new interest is mainly driven by the emergence of new and attractive market categorises such as wearable devices, consumer electronics and IoT.
This change in potential opportunity is transforming the business landscape. Whereas before the business landscape was mostly cluttered with small firms focused on disparate and niche applications, now many big players are developing their own technologies, striking up partnerships, or scooping up IP portfolios to gain a foothold in the supply chain for these emerging categorises.
Complex landscape to navigate
The technology and market landscape here however is complex. This is because thin and flexible energy storage devices can refer to a multitude of technologies including (1) thin lithium batteries, (2) thin film lithium polymer batteries, (3) curved lithium ion batteries, (4) thin flexible supercapacitors, and (5) zinc-based batteries. Each technology has a different package of attributes and is thus useful for different markets. Betting on the right solution is not straightforward.
At the same time, a diverse variety of non-overlapping target markets exist, further compounding the decision-making complexity. The main addressable markets include wearable devices, Internet of Things, RFID, consumer electronics, medical devices, skin patches, etc. It is self-evident that each segment needs different price points, form factors, power densities, lifetimes, processing conditions, etc, and thus the solution in each market will be different.
Wearable devices will come in many shapes and forms, but the largest cross-section of applications will require high energy sources therefore thin and flexible lithium batteries will have the highest potential. Skin patches are already a commercial reality. Here, printed zinc batteries have the highest potential although price needs to fall further.
LiPON-based thin lithium batteries are most promising for many medical diagnostic devices and back-up systems as these applications require stable, long life time, safe and high capacity sources. Coin cells will be hard to displace in the active and battery assisted passive RFID market unless there is a stringent need for laminarity such as in car number plates. Battery-powered smart cards are now an old idea but the technology is now ready to deploy en mass provided costs are further reduced. The risk here, though, is the mobile phones will first solve the problems that smart cards want to address.