An anti-reflective coating is an optical coating that is applied on any lens surface or optical element to reduce the reflection. In a typical imaging system, this improves efficiency as much less light is lost. While the primary benefit is the reduced reflection itself, an anti-reflective coating on something like a pair of spectacles helps make the wearer’s eyes more visible, aiding eye contact. It also helps reduce the glint from a covert viewer’s telescopic sight or binoculars. An anti-reflective coating consists of transparent thin films with alternating layers of a contrasting refractive index. The anti-reflective coating market caters to the needs of many companies dealing in eyewear, electronics, automobiles, solar panels and telecommunications.
Eyewear is expected to retain a strong position in the anti-reflective coatings market. This is because a large number of people are anticipated to join the workforce in the years ahead and they may require vision correction. These customers should easily be able to see the difference that light transmitting glasses make in their daily lives. Anti-reflective coating glasses offer greater comfort by the reduction of painful sunlight glare, elimination of unwanted reflections and adjustment of surrounding contrast levels that improves visibility and provides an easier night driving experience. Anti-reflective coating sprays are also useful in eyewear applications.
Electronics and telecommunications is likely to be the second largest end user in the anti-reflective coatings market. It is predicted to show rapid growth during the forecast period due to a booming demand for smartphones. For a device checked more than a hundred times a day, an anti-reflective glass panel can mean the difference between frustration and satisfaction, especially in bright lights, indoors or in sunlight outdoors. Large screens and ultra-high definition televisions in excess of 50 inches are becoming very popular in developed countries. These massive, flat display panels would need an anti-reflective coating to enable a pleasurable viewing experience for customers. Anti-reflective coatings also find use in the fabrication of semiconductors during the photolithography stage. They help eliminate the reflections, which further enhances lithography.
A focus on renewable and non-polluting sources of energy is a trend that is seen worldwide in the 21stcentury. There is a greater realisation that conventional resources will eventually deplete, fuelling the urgency to look for alternative energy sources such as solar panels, windmills, and hydropower. Solar panels should become increasingly important in the days ahead and they will prove to be a steady adopter of anti-reflective coatings. Governments in a number of countries including the U.S., U.K., France, Germany, China and India are framing policies that offer financial incentives to companies installing solar power systems to counter the energy crisis, global warming and unacceptable levels of pollution. Any light reflected from a solar panel is wasted energy and anti-reflective coatings help deliver better light transmission and reduce light reflection.
The automobile industry is already a massive source of employment in developed countries and production is rapidly expanding in emerging markets such as China, India, Thailand, Mexico and Indonesia. Discerning customers have begun to demand the latest technologies in their vehicles such as GPS navigation systems and intelligent touchscreen infotainment systems compatible with their smartphones. These screens should ideally be coated with an anti-reflective coating as there would be too much glare otherwise, hampering system use. In addition to this, even the car’s windshield and glass usually have an anti-reflective coating to prevent glare distraction while driving.
In spite of all the advantages offered by anti-reflective coating in various industries, usability related issues are likely to raise their ugly head in the coming years. There is a lack of consumer awareness about the benefits offered by anti-reflective coating in a few cases. Some countries have very strict norms concerning raw material use in the manufacture of anti-reflective coating, challenging the anti-reflective coatings market growth in the long run.
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The largest anti-reflective coatings market is presently North America due to a high demand for smartphones, solar panels, spectacles and automobiles in the region. However, the strongest growth is predicted to be in Asia because of improving customer awareness of anti-glare spectacles and electronic displays. Rising energy requirements in these populous countries should increase solar panel sales, thereby boosting the APAC anti-reflective coatings market. Some of the companies operating in the anti-reflective coatings market include Carl Zeiss, Essilor, and Hoya Corporation.