DISPLAYS - What does the future hold for displays?

13 January 2011

As display technologies evolve, Lux Research has identified the printed electronics technologies most likely to impact the industry.

In its inaugural report, Lux Research’s new Printed Electronics Intelligence service surveys the field to assess which technologies are overblown and which have a chance to improve display manufacturing, or even usher in revolutionary new device concepts.

Titled ‘Sorting Hype From Reality in Printed, Organic, and Flexible Display Technologies,’ the report rates the value and maturity of printed, organic, and flexible electronics technologies competing within three application areas; display frontplanes (active display layers), backplanes (thin-film transistors), and transparent electrodes (ITO replacements).

“There’s definitely been disappointment and even frustration over the hype surrounding printed electronics, but some very good business opportunities are emerging,” said Michael Holman, Research Director for Lux Research, and the report’s lead author. “OLED displays have entered the mainstream in certain applications, and electrophoretic displays are now the key component of Amazon’s successful Kindle e-Reader.”

In addition to surveying the field of technologies, the report scores them by their value (their likely impact in the display industry) and maturity (how close they are to having an impact). Assigning value and maturity along two axes to form a grid, the report plots the relative progress of each technology in three application areas; frontplanes, backplanes, and transparent electrodes.

Among its findings, Lux Research reports that Organic light-emitted diode (OLED) displays and electrophoretic displays like those used in the Kindle e-reader are the most mature technologies for display frontplanes, and rate high on value. Among earlier-stage options, electrowetting displays promise the most value.

They also state that with no mature contenders in backplanes, printed silicon is the best bet. Circuitry on a display’s backplane – usually an array of thin-film transistors (TFTs) – is what controls each pixel. Although all emerging TFT technologies rated poorly on maturity, printed silicon TFTs led on value, whilst printed metal-oxide TFTs could be a strong future contender.

Additionally, Lux claims that transparent conductive layers offer a ‘fertile hunting ground’. The current choice for most displays’ transparent electrode is transparent conductive films made from indium tin oxide (ITO), but display-makers hope to replace it with less costly or brittle materials. Silver nanoparticles and silver nanowires are the leading contenders, with the former having a slight edge. Graphene is an intriguing ‘dark horse’ that remains immature.

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