OLEDs Update: Universal Display, Kodak, GE Plastics

Feb. 9, 2006
UDC has unveiled a novel full-color AMOLED prototype on flexible metal foil, Kodak is to broaden its participation in OLED technology, and GE Plastics has reported a breakthrough in flexible OLED substrate development.
UDC unveils novel full-color AMOLED prototype on flexible metal foil

Universal Display Corporation (UDC) has unveiled a full-color, active-matrix OLED (AMOLED) display prototype on flexible metal foil at the United States Display Consortium (USDC)'s 5th Annual Flexible Displays & Microelectronics Conference in Phoenix, Arizona.

In the paper titled "Full Color 100 dpi AMOLED Displays on Flexible Stainless Steel Substrates," Anna Chwang highlighted the performance characteristics of a prototype based on the company's proprietary phosphorescent OLED (PHOLED), top-emitting OLED (TOLED) and flexible OLED (FOLED) technologies. The full-color AMOLED prototype also uses poly-silicon thin film transistor (TFT) backplanes designed and fabricated by PARC, a subsidiary of Xerox Corporation, and was encapsulated by Vitex Systems.

The four-inch diagonal display can portray a variety of images, including full-motion video. This advance is significant in proving the fundamental feasibility of the company's approach and also clearly demonstrates several key performance advantages. The display (without external drive electronics and package) is approximately 0.1 mm thick and weighs a mere 6 grams. The comparable glass-based LCD would be approximately 1.0-1.5 mm thick and weigh 20-30 grams. Research and development activities are continuing in a number of areas including enhanced display flexibility, defect elimination and enhanced electronics capabilities.

UDC says that the flexible, full-color AMOLED prototype highlights several key advantages of the company's proprietary OLED technologies over conventional liquid crystal displays (LCDs). Flexible OLED displays are significantly thinner and lighter weight than existing LCDs. The use of metal foil, instead of the glass that is typically used in LCDs, also offers significantly enhanced thermal and mechanical durability. These features may offer important advantages for today's cell phones, PDA's and lap-top computers.

Coupling these features with the metal foil's inherent flexibility may also lead to a variety of new product opportunities. Applications might include wearable electronics, such as a wrist-mounted PDA, and other portable electronics. These advances are critical for eventual development of the Company's proprietary Universal Communication Device, which would allow a user to unroll a thin, metal screen from a pen-like device for visual as well as verbal communication.

Kodak broadens its participation in OLED technology

[From NE Asia Online]

Eastman Kodak Co has announced that it will broaden its participation in the OLED industry in order to further promote the commercialization of OLED technology.

Kodak recently granted full control of the SK Display Corp joint venture to Sanyo Electric Co. The JV was formed by Kodak and Sanyo in 2001 to manufacture OLED displays. Kodak will continue as exclusive licensing agent on behalf of Kodak and Sanyo for certain OLED intellectual property.

Kodak's OLED strategy initially focused on small displays for portable applications, leading to the word's first product to contain a full color active matrix OLED panel, the Kodak Easyshare LS633 zoom digital camera. The company now plans to broaden its participation in the OLED industry by working with a variety of partners to develop innovative OLED products for a wide range of markets.

Kodak's enhanced participation model will include display and materials R&D; collaboration with manufacturers to develop OLED infrastructure, including panel design and production; and pursuing additional licensing opportunities for both active matrix and passive matrix OLED display technology. To date, more than 20 companies worldwide have licensed Kodak's advanced OLED technology. Organizations worldwide recognize the potential for OLED technology to revolutionize the flat-panel display industry and change how and where people access information and entertainment. The burgeoning worldwide OLED industry is expected to exceed US$2.9 billion by 2011 and is growing at 29% annually, according to market research group iSuppli.

OLED displays consist of self-luminous pixels, which do not require the power-consuming backlights used in LCDs. With its performance and design advantages, OLED technology is enabling a new generation of small- and large-screen display devices.

GE Plastics breakthrough research on substrate system

GE Global Research is also presenting details on its successful development of a substrate system for flexible OLEDs at the Flexible Displays & Microelectronics Conference.

The system features a developmental high-temperature Lexan polycarbonate (PC) film from GE–Plastics combined with a transparent, ultra-high-barrier coating to help protect the OLED device against oxygen and moisture. This research, jointly funded by USDC and GE, is designed to address the critical need for plastic substrates that can enable cost-effective, lightweight, flexible organic displays.

Min Yan, GE materials scientist, gave a presentation on the new substrate system, which is currently being produced in batch mode and will ultimately be moved to a roll-to-roll process for cost efficiency.

“GE’s development of a flexible plastic replacement for the glass substrates used in OLEDs opens the door to exciting new applications such as portable, ruggedized, and eventually roll-up displays,” said Hiro Ezawa, global industry manager, Displays, GE-Plastics. “We are proud of the GE Global Research leadership role in the area of OLED devices and displays, which is based on the breadth and depth of our materials and systems innovation. For example, our extensive resources and expertise made it possible to engineer an integrated, flexible substrate and coating system combining our current experience in both films and coatings technologies.”

Fabricating an OLED on a plastic substrate instead of glass offers a number of design and usage benefits. A plastic substrate is rugged, lighter in weight, easier to transport, and suitable for high-volume manufacturing that can lower systems costs. And this flexibility enables new display designs and configurations not currently envisioned in current rigid displays.

The GE system utilizes the high temperature resistance and high clarity of transparent Lexan film – properties that enable the 125-micron-thick substrate to withstand the heat involved in OLED fabrication and to allow optimal light transmission from the device. The unique graded organic/inorganic barrier coating, which is applied using plasma enhanced chemical vapor deposition, meets the stringent requirements for fabricating OLEDs. The transparent coating prevents degradation of the device from oxygen, moisture, chemicals, and electrical conductivity while promoting light transmission.

In 2006, again with funding from USDC, GE will focus on optimizing roll-to-roll barrier coating processes and evaluate the economic feasibility of its coated plastic substrate system in a wide variety of display applications.