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SID Sizzles with Organic LED Displays

Photonics Spectra
Jul 2002
Paula M. Powell

There's no question that organic LED technology was the star at the 2002 Society of Information Display (SID) show held in Boston in May. Whether the technology promoted by exhibitors was full-color (Samsung SDI Corp. of Seoul, Korea; Universal Display Corp. of Ewing, N.J.; DuPont Displays of Research Triangle Park, N.C.; and Toshiba Matsushita Display Technology Co. Ltd. of Tokyo, to name a few) or monochrome, the reason for the organic LED push was obvious -- vibrant colors and, for monochrome displays, crisp alphanumerics that are extremely easy on the eye.

Regardless of these benefits, the technology still faces major hurdles on the road to commercial acceptance. As with the telecom industry's photonic component manufacturers, the big question is, "Can companies manufacture organic LED products in a repeatable process that can be scaled to superhigh-volume production levels?" Once you moved beyond the oohs-and-aahs stage of booth visits at SID, it wasn't uncommon to find manufacturability an issue of discussion among manufacturers.

For example, in partnership with BTG of West Conshohocken, Pa., researchers at Ohio State University in Columbus are working to commercialize Scale (symmetrically configured AC light emitting) technology. According to professor Arthur Epstein, director of the university's Center for Materials Research, current organic LED devices usually emit light efficiently in one direction from a stack of layered materials. In other words, they have an asymmetric structure and unipolar operation. The university's device should provide a symmetric structure and bipolar-mode operation that will allow it to emit light with equal efficiency in two directions and to generate two colors from one pixel. It also may be possible to fabricate such devices in a roll-to-roll high-volume manufacturing process.

SID also included Eastman Kodak's organic LED evaluation kits for OEMs. The kits, by-products of the firm's SK Display joint venture with Sanyo Electric Co. Ltd. of Tokyo, include Kodak's 5.48-cm-diagonal full-color active-matrix organic LED panel.

Long term, the commercial prospects for passive- and active-matrix technology look good, according to Kim Allen, director of technology and strategic research at Stanford Resources in San Jose, Calif. She predicts that the total market for organic LED technology will exceed $2.3 billion by 2008, with full-color cell phones accounting for the largest market share.

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