What the Heck Is OLET Technology, and Will It Replace OLEDs?

olet diagram image
Trilayer OLET device structure and active materials forming the heterostructure.

Migrated Image / NanoWerk.com

OLED technology is promising for more energy efficient, colorful, thin, and light-weight lighting and display technology. From cell phone screens to massive billboards, OLEDs are touted as the future. But there are already technologies that seeks to push OLEDs off this pedestal. For instance, we've heard of PHOLED, which is the use of phosphor materials to make OLEDs tremendously more efficient. But now there is OLET, or organic light emitting transistors, which are reported to be as much as 100 times more efficient than equivalent OLEDs, and twice as efficient as optimized OLEDs. According to Nanowerk, where OLEDs fail, OLETs are taking up the slack.
"OLET is a new light-emission concept, providing planar light sources that can be easily integrated in substrates of different nature - silicon, glass, plastic, paper, etc. - using standard microelectronic techniques," Michele Muccini, a researcher at the Institute of Nanostructured Materials (ISMN) in Bologna, Italy, explains to Nanowerk. "The focus of OLET development is the possibility to enable new display/light source technologies, and exploit a transport geometry to suppress the deleterious photon losses and exciton quenching mechanisms inherent in the OLED architecture."

So, while OLEDs have some deficiencies that cause energy inefficiencies, OLETs hold the potential to be of equal quality lighting and display while zapping those energy losses. The research shows that "OLETs enable the control of quenching and electrode-induced photon loss processes in an organic light-emitting device. These fundamental processes are those that still limit efficiency and brightness of OLED technology."

And the research shows that they are over 100 times more efficient than equivalent OLEDs, and over 2 times more efficient than optimized OLED with the same emitting layer.

Currently, OLEDs are still squarely in the "one day" realm. When it comes to larger displays, LED-backlit LCDs are vastly more energy efficient while still being competitive in vivid color saturation, and in lighting, we're barely getting in to affordable LED bulbs, with OLEDs only just making it into designers hands. It'll be a long time before we see OLEDs as a daily part of our lives.