OLEDs through Thick and Thin

This month's issue of Information Display, our annual look at organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs), comes at a very interesting time in the history of this early-stage display technology. After three decades of research and development, OLED technology has never shown more promise. Many passive-matrix OLED (PMOLED) products can be seen today in car radios, cell phones, MP3 players, etc. Active-matrix OLED (AMOLED) products have been much slower to reach commercial success, though there have been notable achievements such as a highly praised color camera display made by the Sanyo–Kodak joint venture, microdisplays from eMagin Corp., and several important technology demonstrations from Samsung, Seiko-Epson, Toshiba, and others, but that appears to be changing. "Is AMOLED TV Ready to Enter the Battle for Large-Screen Flat-Panel-Display Dominance?" by Dr. Kyuha Chung, et al.details the R&D efforts behind Samsung's 40-in. AMOLED TV, which generated tremendous buzz when it was first introduced at SID 2005, and the company's plans to commercialize large-screen OLED TVs.

The OLED industry has recently seen two high-profile shakeouts. The first was the closing of the Pioneer joint venture with Sharp and Semiconductor Energy Laboratory called ELDis and the dissolution of SK, the joint venture between Sanyo and Kodak. Although disappointing, these evolutions have less to do with technology issues than with the financial challenges of their parents. Pioneer will continue to produce PMOLED products, while Kodak will no doubt continue its efforts in materials and process technology. In fact, Kodak's Web site currently lists 18 licensees that are working with its small-molecule OLED (SM-OLED) materials and expertise, including Pioneer.

The money and muscle behind OLED technology is growing and moving every day. As Dr. Kimberly Allen (iSuppli Corp.) recently pointed out, the real story may be about a regional shift from Japan to countries including Korea, where powerhouses LG and Samsung are making major investments, and Taiwan, where companies such as AU Optronics Corp., RiTDisplay, and Chi Mei Optoelectronics are adding new lines and showing new prototype products. This is very good news for future manufacturing capacity and process development. What else will affect the development of OLED technology? Dr. Amal Ghosh of eMagin Corp. and Dr. Steven Van Slyke of Kodak provide a great overview of the technology, as well as a discussion of future expectations in their article, "OLEDs: The Challenges Ahead."

In a recent conversation with former ID editor Ken Werner (now with Insight Media), he explained that the marketing departments of several display developers heavily promoted AMOLED technology well before the manufacturing infrastructure and process technology was ready. Some small-molecule AMOLED products are getting to market now, but the manufacturing processes require vapor deposition and shadow-masking operations, which can waste a lot of valuable material. That is why the recent advances in ink-jet technology to pattern polymer-OLED (P-OLED) materials are so intriguing. Universal Display Corp. was recently awarded a significant patent covering ink-jet printing of phosphorescent-OLED (PH-OLED) displays. Dr. David Fyfe and Terry Nicklin of Cambridge Display Technology explore the significance of ink-jet technology for OLEDs in this month's Business of Displays column, "The Awakening Ink-Jet Giant for P-OLED Manufacturing."

Two other features in this issue point to the continuing quest to improve OLED displays. In "Quantum-Dot Light-Emitting Devices for Displays," by Dr. Seth Coe-Sullivan and Greg Moeller, we learn about a possible new approach to fabricating the emission layer with significant potential commercial benefits. "Displays for Printed Electronics Using Soluble Organic Semiconductors," written by Klaus Ludwig, et al., explores the possibilities offered by combining organic compounds with printed electronics.

Finally, we were saddened to learn of the passing of David Mentley in late January. David was a great friend to many in the display community, as well as a visionary in the field of market research at Stanford Resources (now iSuppli Corp.). David is remembered through his eulogy written by Dr. Joseph Castellano (see SID News).