Conductive polymers are used as the cathode material in advanced surface mount electrolytic capacitors and provide the design engineer with an ultra-small discrete component with high relative capacitance and low equivalent series resistance. The use of conductive polymers as advanced cathodes are the cutting edge in chip electrolytic capacitor design and the focus of much of the current R&D spending in Japan and the USA. Conductive polymer technology for capacitor cathodes is based upon polythiophene (PeDOT), polypyrole and polyanaline type polymers. The most successful of the conductive polymers has been polythiophene, a product which has been sold into the capacitor market by HC Starck. The patent for HC Starck’s PeDot polythiophene conductive polymer is expiring and many companies are positioning themselves to enter the market to compete on price based upon both new material and in-process development of like material.
Survey Question: The patent for polythiophene which is used as a conductive polymer cathode in solid tantalum and aluminum capacitor anodes is expiring. Do you think prices for conductive polymer capacitors will come down now that the materials market is open to competition?
77% of respondents to this question believed that there would be price erosion in the market for conductive polymer materials that could be used to compete against polythiophene. 14% of respondents said all price erosion had already occurred in the market for 2009 with the global economic downturn and that no further price erosion was expected in the materials, and 9% of respondents said that conductive polymer had very little impact on the overall price of the finished capacitor and therefore the impact on cost savings in tantalum capacitors would be negligible.
Publisher’s Note: Paumanok Publications, Inc. has noted that there is activity in low cost materials designed to work on par with the formerly patented materials. Price erosion will be the logical result. They have also noted that the amount of conductive polymer used in the finished anode is very small, less then 2% by weight of the anode, but as they showed in their study- “Conductive Polymer Capacitors: World Markets, Technologies & Opportunities” written in 2006 (UPDATE- THIS STUDY WAS UPDATED IN OCTOBER 2010), the amount of material consumed in the production process is much larger then what gets consumed, due to the multiple bath dipping process. The conclusion is that any reduction in price in conductive polymer would be good to reduce process costs for both tantalum and aluminum capacitors. However, it is all moot compared to the potential in price increases for the tantalum anode materials given the precarious nature of the tantalite supply chain as we enter 2010.