Sunday, August 03, 2008

OLED displays

The Christian Science Monitor reports: [edited]

In the 2002 movie “Minority Report,” director Steven Spielberg painted the future as a place where no surface was still. Newspapers updated in readers’ hands and advertisements talked to passers-by. Even cereal boxes were animated.

Such gadgets and displays offer several potential advantages over silicon-based electronics – chief among them, they can be manufactured by a cheaper and less energy-intensive process, they’re potentially more energy efficient, and they can bend.

So-called organic light-emitting diodes (OLED) – 'organic' because, like all known life, they’re carbon-based – are poised to change everything from visual displays to ambient lighting.

Unlike liquid crystal displays (LCDs), OLED displays have no backlight. Each OLED pixel emits its own glow. This saves materials, energy, and space, allowing for ever thinner electronics. It also permits flexibility, viewing at obtuse angles, and, in some cases, visibility from both sides.

An OLED’s ability to go on a flexible surface – plastic or metal foil, for example – is a major selling point for those seeking improved portability. (OLEDs are already common on cellphones and PDAs throughout Asia.)

Making plastic displays doesn’t require parts so much as base materials. So, the electronics can be “printed” roll-to-roll like a newspaper, rather than assembled piece-by-piece like the much more energy intensive process that’s used for LCD displays.

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