DescriptionTraditional phosphors on the verge of commoditization due to expected strong push from China after YAG patents fall into public domain. But Quantum Dots are finally ready for prime time.Strong price pressure stalls revenue growth and pressures margins but masks a more complex picture
While volumes are expected to more than double between 2015 and 2020, LED Phosphor prices have declined dramatically, leading to a flat revenue outlook. Low technology barriers of entrance on the most mature compositions have prompted companies to procure turnkey manufacturing equipment and enter the market.
With little to no quality control and R&D expenses, some have achieved low cost comparable to that of the tri-phosphors used in fluorescent lamps. In a bid to capture market shares, they triggered an intense price war. With major YAG IP expiring from 2017, leading Chinese LED makers will have easier access to overseas markets, and domestic Phosphor suppliers such as Yuji, Grirem, YT Shield, Illuma or Sunfor will expand their markets, further increasing YAG commoditization. Phosphor makers are therefore shifting their efforts toward higher added value materials such as nitrides, which, while prices have also decreased significantly during the period, have maintained better margins. But both emerging and established vendors such as Intematix will face Mitsubishi’s will to enforce its IP and maintain leadership on this segment.
Despite a difficult environment, some companies will strive. As illustrated by very wide price ranges, despite commoditization on the low end, LED phosphors remain a specialty market on the high end. Leading suppliers still commend significant price premiums and will strive to create value to maintain margins. This can be achieved through improved performance and consistency, customization, and innovative products. Solid IP shielding their customers from the risk of a patent lawsuit is also a strong element of differentiation. The LED phosphor market will remains technology and IP driven. While China-based suppliers are winning the price war, they now need to fight the patent war.
Garnets will keep dominating the market in volume but innovation will pay off and new compositions will capture most of the revenue
Indeed, YAG remains the best broadband yellow phosphor for generating white light. But its use is restricted by strong IP owned by Nichia. Silicates are the best substitute, although still lagging slightly in term of cost and performance. With critical IP to start expiring from 1997 and prices now significantly lower than any alternative, we expect YAG to become the ubiquitous yellow phosphor by the end of the decade while silicate essentially disappear. For green phosphors, LuAG, silicates and the emerging, cost-efficient GaYAG are the best broadband emitters for high CRI lighting. For high color gamut displays, β-SiAlON is favored due to its high stability and narrow band emission.
Over the last 3 years, nitrides prices have decreased 3x to 10x and the composition family has risen to become the dominant red phosphors for high CRI lighting and wide color gamut displays. Suppliers have proliferated despite IP restrictions. But a new material, Mn4+ doped PFS (potassium fluorosilicate) developed by GE and already manufactured by Denka, Nichia and GE could challenge the nitride dominance in display applications thanks to its extremely narrow band and despite its low absorption. Many other phosphor manufacturers such as Intematix are developing PFS and we expect the competition to intensify. However, GE holds strong patents and it remains to be seen how much leverage this will provide the conglomerate in controlling this emerging segment.
Quantum Dots are finally ready for prime time and will exceed traditional phosphor revenue by 2020 by allowing LCD to compete with OLED in the race for the next display generation
After the lukewarm reception of 3D and 4K, the display industry needs a new and disruptive experience improvement to bring consumers back to the store. Image quality perception increases significantly when color gamut and dynamic contrast ratio are improved. Leading movie studios, content providers, distributors and display makers gathered and formed the “UHD Alliance” to promote those features. OLED was believed to be the technology of choice for this next generation of displays. But production challenges have delayed the availability of affordable OLED TVs.
LCD TVs with LED backlights based on quantum dots downconverters can deliver performance close to, or even better than OLED in some respects, and at a lower cost. Until OLEDs are ready, QDLCD have a unique window of opportunity to try to close enough of the performance gap that the majority of the consumers won’t perceive the difference between the two technologies and price would become the driving factor in the purchasing decision. Under this scenario, QD-LCD could establish itself as the dominant technology while OLED would be cornered into the high end of the market. OLED potentially offer more opportunities for differentiation but proponents need to invest massively and still have to resolve manufacturing yield issues. For tier-2 LCD panel makers who can’t invest in OLED, QDs offer an opportunity to boost LCD performance without additional CAPEX on their fabs. At the 2015 CES, 7 leading TV OEMs including Samsung and LG showed QD-LCD TVs.
With tunable and narrowband emissions, QDs offer unique design flexibility. But more is needed to enable massive adoption, including the development of further improved Cdfree compositions. And traditional phosphors haven’t said their last word. If PFS could further improve in term of stability and decay time and a narrow-band green composition was to emerge, traditional phosphors could also be part of the battle against OLED.
Objectives of the Report
The report provides the reader with a comprehensive review of the LED downconverter markets, technology trends and competitive landscape:
- Requirements for lighting and displays
- Configurations and dispensing methods. How they’re impacted by LED packaging technologies
- Trends in phosphor compositions. How application requirements and IP constrain impact composition choices
- Competitive landscape: key players, price trends, supply and demand
- How Quantum Dots could transform the display industry and impact the market for traditional phosphors. How can they compete with OLEDs
- Updated analysis of the market and technology trends for traditional LED phosphors: new compositions (PFS), deposition methods and configurations (on-chip and remote) narrow band phosphors, competitive landscape, phosphor industry in China, recent price trends
- Extensive analysis of the Quantum Dot LED market for display and lighting applications: Quantum Dot manufacturing, Benefits and drawbacks, Quantum Dots LCD Versus OLED, Detailed market forecast.