Research programme on flexible OLED displays

23 January 2012

Holst Centre and imec have launched a new research programme on next-generation flexible OLED (organic light emitting diode) displays. It builds on their track record and solid base of existing research partners in related fields such as Organic and Oxide Transistors and Flexible OLED Lighting.

The primary objective of the new programme is to develop an economically scalable route to high-volume manufacturing of flexible active-matrix OLED displays. The shared programme will bring together partners from across the value chain to tackle challenges such as high resolution, low power consumption, large area, outdoor readability, flexibility and light weight.

Today, state-of-the-art OLED displays are small and mobile and used in applications such as smart phones and tablet PCs. They are characterised by a strong contrast compared to conventional LCDs due to the fact that OLED pixels emit only when activated, achieving a more intense black. Furthermore, OLEDs have a faster response time, eliminating image lag. OLEDs can also consume less power, depending on the usage profile, while providing better contrast and viewing angle than conventional LCDs. OLEDs are also much simpler in design and contain fewer components compared to LCDs, enabling substantial process cost reductions.

The ambition of the new programme is work towards flexible, high-resolution OLED displays. The programme will tackle the individual challenges towards the next-generation of OLED displays; a mechanically flexible encapsulation film and TFT backplane and printed, high-efficiency OLEDs. New materials and processes that allow for cheaper production, better quality, lower power, more robustness and more flexibility will be developed. Also, the design of the drivers, pixel circuits and TFT backplane matrix will be reconsidered as increasing display area influences the amount of pixels-per-inch or the refresh rates. Finally, the programme scope includes the development of new manufacturing equipment such as fine patterning equipment for backplanes and tools for integrated roll-to-roll manufacturing.

Gerwin Gelinck, Holst Centre Programme Manager of the OLED Display Programme, said: “Holst Centre and its partners continuously look for new application domains for the generic flexible electronic technologies that have been developed. This ensures our research stays tangible, application-oriented and relevant for industry and society. Flexible displays represent an enormous economic and technical opportunity for flat panel manufacturers and its supply chain. As such they are seen as an attractive landing place for many new technologies. Flexible displays are therefore becoming a top priority research effort for many companies worldwide, including many of our current industrial partners.”

Paul Heremans (imec), Programme Manager of the OLED Display Programme, added: “With this programme in mind, we already have been working more and more towards integrating separate building blocks and have realised OLED displays using both organic and metal oxide TFT backplanes. Thin, plastic substrates were used, and the displays were fully encapsulated using our state-of-the-art barrier technology. Part of this was done with other research institutes in a European project called FLAME, but we could really pull this off because of intense collaboration with some of our industrial partners. We will demonstrate some of these display prototypes in 2012.”

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