Organic Light-Emitting Diodes (OLED) are considered by many people as the next step in display technology, with the potential of replacing current plasma or LCD large-screen televisions with ultra-slim, ultra-light screens that can be folded when not in use. They are currently being used in small screen displays such as computer monitors, digital cameras and car TV screens. The next stage of development is to create commercially-viable, large TV screens.
LED and OLED
In order to understand OLED, one needs to start with the light-emitting diodes or LED. Simply put, light-emitting diodes are semi-conductors that generate light when an electrical current is passed through them. They are composed of two or more (usually) metallic or crystalline substances that are atomically “imbalanced.” That is, they will have an element which has one or more negatively-charged free electrons in its makeup (such as arsenic or phosphorous with five electrons) and another which will have an atomic “hole” since it will have three positively-charged electrons (as in the case of gallium). An electrical current passing through these elements will cause the free electrons to “jump” to fill up the atomic “holes.” The energy released in this action causes light to be generated or emitted.
Organic light-emitting diodes follow the same basic structure as LED but they use plastics or other organic products to form both “sides” of the light emitting material. They also have a non-conducting substrate layer (which can be either glass or plastic) which forms the “frame” to which the material is fastened to.
Advantages of OLED
The very nature of OLED provides it with many advantages over LED and other display technologies like LCD. For one, its use of plastic or organic materials (rather than crystalline or metallic compounds) provides for a screen that is lighter, much thinner and far more flexible than LED or LCD screens.
The organic materials used for OLED also mean a brighter display yet less power consumption. LCD screens operate by blocking selective areas of a backlit screen in order to create the images we see; since OLED screens do not need backlighting, they require much less power than ordinary LCD or LED.
OLED screens also have much larger fields of view compared to other display systems (around 170 degrees, which means that a viewer can watch an OLED screen from almost any angle comfortably), compared to LCD screens which require a viewer to be looking at the latter head-on to fully appreciate the picture displayed.
Drawbacks of OLED
OLED is still new technology (even though it has been around for almost two decades) and manufacturers are still in the process of improving production systems to bring costs down. One current problem is that manufacturing OLED screens require “clean rooms” at the level of silicon chip fabrication – moisture or dirt can affect the production of OLED products.
Current manufacturing capabilities thus prevent mass production of large-size OLED screens; the products displayed at trade shows are often hand-crafted with manufacturers emphasizing that these are mere prototypes.