Polymer dispersed liquid crystal (PDLC) film contains micrometer-sized droplets of liquid crystal dispersed in a polymeric matrix, and are potentially useful for electro-optic and solar applications, as they can be switched electrically from light-scattering state to a transparent state. PDLC films are also known as smart materials and are widely employed in portable computers, ultra-fast phase modulators, calculators, switchable glass, digital clocks, cell phones, gas pumps, large area shutters for architectural windows, watches, etc. PDLC films possess excellent electro-optical properties and are capable of scattering high and different amounts of an impinging light beam intensity on the event of application of external electric field.
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The polymer dispersed liquid crystal (PDLC) film market can be segregated based on processing technique, product, and technology type. Based on processing technique, the market can be further split into encapsulation and phase separation. Encapsulation is the conventional technique for processing PDLC films, and it is manufactured by mixing and heating liquid crystal and polymer with water. This processing technique produces droplets of various sizes. Phase separation, in recent years, has expanded its market share in the polymer dispersed liquid crystal (PDLC) market, as more homogeneous and desired configuration of the film can be obtained through this technique. The phase separation segment can be further sub-segmented into polymerization-induced phase separation (PIPS), thermally-induced phase separation (TIPS), and solvent-induced phase separation (SIPS). Based on product, the market can be segmented into laminated PDLC and self-adhesive PDLC film. Laminated PDLC film is manufactured by encapsulation process and is widely utilized for new construction as well as renovation projects. Laminated PDLC film possess interlayer adhesive and contains coatings of indium tin oxide, while the self-adhesive film is employed for retrofit applications and can be easily applied to the respective surface. Demand for self-adhesive films is expected to rise significantly during the forecast period, as they are capable of changing their transparency in response to an electrical impulse. Self-adhesive films are commercially available in the form of a roll and can be applied to existing windows as per desired size. In terms of technology type, the market can be classified into scattering PDLCs, nano-PDLCs, and polymer network liquid crystals. Scattering PDLC is the most common type of PDLC technology where concentration of polymer within the liquid crystal is roughly within 30% to 50%, while in nano-PDLC, the concentration is approximately to 60% to 80%, and in polymer network liquid crystals the concentration is 1% to 10%.
Rising demand for smart materials, typically in the building & construction industry, is driving the PDLC market. Additionally, key features of these films such as low absorption, high speed binary operations, high extinction ratio, and high thermal performance are also propelling the demand for PDLC films. These films keep the insides of the house cool in summer, and according to the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), PDLC film application in building smart glass is likely to save up to 8% of a building’s total energy consumption. PDLC films are expensive as compared to their counterparts, and they are likely to start degrading after five to six years of deployment and hence, also require heavy maintenance. This is anticipated to restrain the PDLC film market. However, continuous research activities to increase the durability of the film are expected to provide lucrative opportunities to manufacturers during the forecast period.
Geographically the market is segmented into five regions such as North America, Asia Pacific, Europe, Latin America, and Middle East & Africa. In terms of consumption, Asia Pacific is the leading region due to significant expansion of the automotive industry and robust foreign direct investment in various sectors such as consumer electronics and the building &construction industry of the region. North America follows Asia Pacific, in terms of consumption of PDLC films, due to their increasing applications in marine, power generation, and aviation industries. The PDLC film market in Europe is also expanding at a moderate pace due to the rising prominence of green energy initiatives, such as eco-friendly & green buildings in the region. Middle East & Africa and Latin America are witnessing growth at a sluggish pace, as compared to mature regions, due to low product awareness.
Key players operating in the PDLC film market include Qingdao QY Liquid Crystal Co., Ltd., Polytronix, Inc., DMDisplay CO. LTD, and IRISFILM Corp.
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