A research team has developed the world’s most efficient organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) on plastic, and the devices provide comparable performance to traditional glass-based OLEDs, according to a press release from the University of Toronto in Canada.
“This discovery unlocks the full potential of OLEDs, leading the way to energy-efficient, flexible and impact-resistant displays,” said research team leader Zheng-Hong Lu in a statement. The researchers reported the results in the journal Nature Photonics.
OLEDs are essentially dye materials that can be activated by electricity. They are already used in some cell-phone displays and other small-scale applications, and are on-track to dominate the advanced electronic screen market, according to the press release. OLEDs are appealing for making large energy-efficient, high-contrast displays and lighting, including lighting designs that are printed with newspaper machines and applied like wallpaper.
Current OLEDs are made of glass that is doped with heavy metals, so displays are expensive, heavy, rigid, and fragile. Using a thin plastic substrate can reduce the cost of production, as well as make the products durable and flexible.
To build the new, efficient plastic OLEDs, the Toronto team developed a tantalum oxide coating with the same high-refractive index as the doped glass, and they applied the coating to thin plastic. Like the glass, the coated plastic is the surface for the OLED device.
Michael G. Helander, a graduate student who co-authored the journal article on new OLEDs, said in a video release that the next step is to scale up the lab models for industrial production. There is a lot of work to be done, but he expects that these OLEDs could be on the market in five to 10 years.
Source: “MSE Researchers Create World’s Most Efficient Flexible OLED,” University of Toronto press release, 10/31/11
Source: “Unlocking the full potential of organic light-emitting diodes on flexible plastic,” Nature Photonics, 10/30/11
Source: “Creating the Digital Displays of Tomorrow,” University of Toronto Engineering, 10/30/11
Rachel Petkewich is a freelance science writer and editor. She has worked as a research scientist in the chemical industry and spent eight years as a staff writer and editor at various science journals and magazines, including Chemical & Engineering News.