Clean Tech Forum 2009: OLED Association Gives Us an OLED Status Update

OLED Association logo and OLED products image

Photo of TVs via edkohler

OLEDs Association's Managing Director Barry Young knows just about everything about OLEDs, so he was the perfect person for us to sit down with at this year's Clean Tech Forum and pick his brain about where OLED technology stands today, and when and where we can expect to see it on the market. The Role of OLED-A
The OLED Association, or OLED-A has been around for about a year. Its job is to spread the word about OLED technology, help solve technical problems faced by manufacturers wanting to implement the technology, and, perhaps most importantly, develop standards and measurements to be followed by manufacturers so consumers know the quality of the product they're purchasing.

OLED Technology is Awesome
Young reviewed a few of the benefits of OLED technology, including that the power consumption, form and image are better than LCDs. In addition, they can be made about 1 mm thick. That means a completed TV set can be as thin as about three credit cards.

OLED TV side view photo
Side view of Sony OLED TV via MShades
OLED Already In Small Devices, Getting Bigger
OLED displays are already widely used in cell phones from companies like Nokia, Samsung, Sony and LG. The technology is starting to get used on a larger scale. Kodak has already launched it's expensive OLED digital photo frame. OQO is coming out with a netbook this year with an OLED screen. And we can also expect to see a 14.1" notebook screen come out. But it will be about 2 to 3 years before it really starts to compete with LCDs, and about 5 years before these displays will be manufactured on the same scale as LCDs.

Right now, OLEDS are about twice as expensive as LCDs. That, Young explains, is simply because production volume is lower. While only about 1/3 of an LCD factory needs to be retrofitted to be able to produce OLEDs, that's a pretty major investment. In addition, technology for larger displays (bigger than 11" TVs) is still being hammered out. But the energy savings goes up with display size. In about 5 years, we can expect OLEDs to be about twice as efficient as LCDs.

What is also pretty cool about OLEDs that Young pointed out is they're so thin, displays will start to be intergrated into windows, walls and other areas where thinness is desired. He notes that by 2013 we'll see more OLEDs being built into plastic and making it foldable, including roll-to-roll manufacturing.
OLED As Lighting
Another awesome advancement that Young was excited about — and so are we — is improving OLED efficiency and getting it into lighting. OLEDs are a great replacement for fluorescent lighting, and because of the way it is manufactured, has some amazing potential for being hidden lighting. AN example Young gave is you could put OLED material onto ceiling tiles and install them so that during the day, the ceiling looks like it's only tiles, but at night, a couple of those tiles become your light source for the room. Very cool.

Another idea is doing the same for windows — you'll be able to see through them during the day, but at night they'll be your light source. And because OLED is such a durable solid state technology, layering it over windows could be a great possibility.

Young said we can expect to see lamp makers create lighting for design spaces by 2010 or 2011, but it won't be until around 2015 that we see OLED lighting on the consumer market.

OLED-A on Standards for Definitions and Measurements
There's a great reason for OLED to come down on implementing standards for the manufacturers. Over its lifetime, an OLED display's color and efficiency will decrease, but that is currently measured differently by different manufacturers. OLED-A wants to implement definitions for things like contrast rations, response time, useage modes and so on, and set standard starting points for lifetime measurement. That way, oranges can be compared to oranges.

Check out OLED-A's website to keep updated on OLED technology.

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