Organic Light-Emitting Diode

OLED Organic Light-Emitting Diode (OLED) – for those of you that don’t know – is an LED based off of an organic compound (called a luminophore). Its a cheaply fabricated LED. I have heard about this technology off and on over the years but recently as I have been salivating over LCDs and crying over their costs, my focus has been turned towards this technology with curiosity and a longing for it to be mainstream. Oh, and when I refer to the sexiness of OLEDs, I am actuallyreferencing Cambridge Display Technologies’ (CDT) implementation of them as Polymer Light-Emitting Diodes (PLED). So, what are the advantages of OLED displays over LCDs?

      Cheap – this means flat panel displays, if this technology catches on like we can hope it will, will become MUCH more affordable…they are expected to have a 20-40 percent cost advantage over LCDs
      Thin and Flexible – OLED can be printed onto flexible material allowing for ultra-thin, ultra-bendy displays! Wikipedia mentions roll-up displays and displays embedded in clothing.
      Contrast – Unlike LCD, OLED doesn’t require backlighting! Backlighting in LCDs prevents those displays from possessing a true ‘black’…in the absence of backlighting, OLEDs are able to achieve a large variation of contrast, color, and viewing angles.
      Efficient – OLEDs are NOT power hogs. Due to the fact that they emit their own light and do not require backlighting, they do not consume the power that their LCD cousins do.

This technology sounds very very sexy…why hasn’t it become full mainstream yet? Well, like all fairly new technologies there are kinks to work out. OLEDs have a few glaring problems:

      Color Lifespans – It seems in OLEDs, colors have a lifespan. The colors Red and Green have achieved lifespans of over 20,000 hours (over 2.2 years) but blue supposedly hasn’t done so well. CDT claims they have a blue OLED with a lifespan of over 100,000 hours. (thats ~11 years)
      Patents – As always, new technologies are held back by patents. Kodak is the culprit in this case. For now, any company that wishes to use OLEDs needs to acquire a license.

It seems this display technology has promise and is overcoming its limitations. I look forward to the cheap, disposable displays of tomorrow but also shudder to think what revolutions to the advertising industry this may birth…with a flexible and cheap display, just imagine where companies will think to put their dynamic ads.

In the mean time, there are some companies that are moving forward with actual devices that make use of this technology…one that I am particularly excited about is the Optimus Keyboard

(other OLED sources: OLED Info, OLED Today, Overview of OLED Display Technology (pdf))