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Panel mulls OLEDs' incursion into LCD land

Posted: 24 May 2002 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:OLED? active-matrix LCD? CRT? PDA? panel?

Organic light-emitting diodes are about to seriously challenge the active-matrix LCDs that are the workhorse of the flat-panel display industry, according to a panel held Tuesday (May 21) at the Society for Information Display 2002 conference.

Research executives who participated in the panel agreed that OLEDs are serious contenders, but all concluded that the timing and extent of their penetration remains uncertain, as many technical challenges must be overcome first.

The panelists sparred over technical and business issues such as lifetime differential aging, temperature sensitivity, color purity, manufacturing and price. But all agreed that OLEDs "look great," and even the staunchest AM-LCD proponents said they have research teams investigating OLEDs to make sure they will not be left behind when the "new kid on the block" grows up.

"There are 50 companies spending serious money developing OLEDs," said panel moderator Paul Drzaic, vice president of display technology at Alien Technology. When Drzaic asked whether OLEDs will displace existing display technologies, the attentive audience answered with a rousing ovation.

"We've had other contending technologies such as field-emissive devices, and plasma displays that went after the LCD space, but none showed the characteristics that OLEDs bring to the party," said Stewart Hough, vice president of business development for Cambridge Display Technology. "It took 15 years for the LCDs to take over the CRT as the display technology for computers; it will take much less for OLEDs to make an incursion into applications currently served by AM-LCDs."

Users presently prefer emissive display technologies, especially for such small form factor applications as cellular phones, handheld electronic games and PDAs, panelists said. Those are the applications and form factor presently served by OLEDs. Making larger displays for notebook computers might prove problematic, however, said Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. executive Jun Sook. "There are fundamental issues that need to be addressed before we relegate AM-LCDs to the 'dinosaur of displays' status," he said.

At the current rate of progress, "it may take 15 years of OLED development and increased use what it took 30 years for LCDs to achieve," said Kai Schleupen of IBM Corp.'s T.J. Watson Research Center.

In a lively exchange between panelists and conference attendees, audience members warned die-hard LCD proponents to pay attention to the action on the SID 2002 exhibit floor, where Eastman Kodak was demonstrating a GameBoy terminal with an enticing OLED display, and Toshiba Corp. was showing a 17-inch OLED panel. "I know that my kids are going to drive the buying of GameBoys with the bright OLED screens," said one attendee.

While Toshiba's large display was only a proof-of-concept device, it presents an obvious challenge to volume manufacturing. "We need to apply roll-to-roll manufacturing lines to OLED production to reduce costs," said Roger Stewart of Alien Technology, whose Fluidic Self Assembly technology allows for placement of large numbers of small components across a panel surface.

Perhaps the most intriguing remarks came from panelist Michael Hack, vice president of strategic market development at Universal Display Corp. "OLEDs is the first example of molecular electronics," he said, referring to the displays' small organic molecule structure. "We tend to live with our limitations until someone removes them and then we begin to develop."

Hack and others said that OLEDs could serve as a solid-state replacement for light bulbs in the future: "A U.S. government study reveals that a solid-state lighting technology, such as OLED, could outstrip the energy requirements that we currently have to depend upon from oil coming from Saudi Arabia and Iraq combined," Hack said.

Nevertheless, when the session moderator asked panelists for a "yes" or "no" assessment of OLEDs' future, given that increasing features could also be added to AM-LCDs, the panel split along "party lines." But all agreed that 2002 is a watershed year for OLEDs.

? Nicolas Mokhoff

EE Times

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