March 12, 2008 OLED (organic light-emitting diode) is touted as the technology of the future for lighting products, with emerging applications in fields ranging from touchscreens, televisions and electronic paper displays to interior lighting, keyboards and even reprogrammable camera lenses. The prospect of widespread commercialization of OLED systems has been given a boost with news that GE's research arm has demonstrated the world’s first roll-to-roll manufacturing process for OLED lighting devices, a breakthrough that promises to cut production costs in areas such as organic photovoltaics as well as flexible displays and other OLED products.
Promising efficiency, performance and environmental benefits over LCD screens, OLED consist of organic materials sandwiched between two electrodes which illuminate when an electrical charge is applied. Because these materials themselves are luminescent, an OLED screen doesn’t need a backlight, can show a “true” black color and uses less electrical power. OLEDs are also open to a broad range of design possibilities with any surface - flat or curved - object, or piece of furniture potentially becoming a light source. Wallpaper could one day light your home.
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The demonstration is the culmination of a four-year, $13 million research collaboration among GE Global Research, Energy Conversion Devices, Inc. and the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
“Researchers have long dreamed of making OLEDs using a newspaper-printing like roll-to-roll process,” said Anil Duggal, manager of GE’s Advanced Technology Program in Organic Electronics. “Now we’ve shown that it is possible. Commercial applications in lighting require low manufacturing costs, and this demonstration is a major milestone on our way to developing low cost OLED lighting devices.”
Duggal continued, “Beyond OLEDs, this technology also could have broader impact in the manufacturing of other organic electronic devices such as organic photovoltaics for solar energy conversion, sensors and roll-up displays.”
The OLED "printing" machine is being used for further manufacturing research at GE’s Global Research Center in Niskayuna, New York.