Introduction to OLED technology
What is an OLED?
OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diodes) is a flat light emitting technology, made by placing a series of organic thin films between two conductors. When electrical current is applied, a bright light is emitted. OLEDs can be used to make displays and lighting. Because OLEDs emit light they do not require a backlight and so are thinner and more efficient than LCD displays(which do require a white backlight).OLEDs are not just thin and efficient - they can also be made flexible (even rollable) and transparent.
OLED vs LCD
OLED displays have the following advantages over LCD displays:
- Improved image quality - better contrast, higher brightness, fuller viewing angle, a wider color range and much faster refresh rates.
- Lower power consumption
- Simpler design that enables ultra-thin, flexible and transparent displays
- Better durability - OLEDs are very durable and can operate in a broader temperature range
Read more about OLED vs LED TVs.
The future - flexible and transparent OLED displays
As we said, OLEDs can be used to create flexible and transparent displays. This is pretty exciting as it opens up a whole world of possibilities:
- Curved OLED displays, placed on non-flat surfaces
- Wearable OLEDs
- Transparent OLEDs embedded in windows
- OLEDs in car windshields
- New designs for lamps
- And many more we cannot even imagine today...
How do OLEDs work?
An OLED is made by placing a series of organic thin films between two conductors. When electrical current is applied, a bright light is emitted.
OLED panels are made from organic (carbon based) materials that emit light when electricity is applied through them. Since OLEDs do not require a backlight and filters (unlike LCD displays), they are more efficient, simpler to make, and much thinner - and in fact can be made flexible and even rollable. OLEDs have a great picture quality - brilliant colors, infinite contrast, fast response rate and wide viewing angles. OLEDs can also be used to make OLED lighting - thin, efficient and without any bad metals.
Flexible OLEDs are already on the market, as are transparent OLEDs. The future will bring us much more exciting displays, so stay tuned!
Click here for a more detailed view of the OLED technology
So what's organic about OLEDs?
OLEDs are organic because they are made from carbon and hydrogen. There's no connection to organic food or farming - although OLEDs are very efficient and do not contain any bad metals - so it's a real green technology.
Where can I find OLED displays today?
OLEDs are used today in mobile phones, digital cameras, VR headsets, tablets, laptops and TVs. Samsung is the clear leader in OLED production for mobile devices, and the company uses OLEDs in all of their flagship devices - such as the Galaxy S6, the Note 5 and the very latest Tablet Pro S. Other companies, including Apple, Motorola, Dell, Sony, Microsoft, LG and Lenovo are also using OLEDs in some of their mobile devices.
OLEDs are used in mobile devices today because they are thin, efficient and bright. OLEDs carry a price premium over LCDs, but companies are using these displays more and more as performance increases and prices decrease. Here's our list of products and gadgets with an OLED display.
OLEDs aren't perfect. First of all, today it costs more to produce an OLED than it does to produce an LCD - although this should hopefully change in the future, as OLEDs has a potential to be even cheaper than LCDs because of their simple design.
OLEDs have limited lifetime (like any display, really), that was quite a problem a few years ago. But there has been constant progress, and today this is almost a non-issue. Today OLEDs last long enough to be used in mobile devices and TVs. OLEDs can also be problematic in direct sunlight, because of their emmissive nature. But companies are working to make it better, and newer AMOLEDs (such as Samsung's Super AMOLED andSuper AMOLED Plus and Nokia's CBD displays) are quite good in that respect - some even consider them superior to LCDs.
Can OLEDs produce white lighting?
Yes, OLEDs actually make for a great light source. OLEDs offer diffuse area lighting and can be flexible, efficient, light, thin, transparent, color-tunable and more. OLEDs will probably be used in completely new lighting designs.
Most Lighting companies (including Philips, OSRAM, GE, Lumiotec, Samsung, LG and UDC) are working towardsOLED lighting. Many companies are already offering samples and low-volume panels, but prices are still very high and performance is limited. It is expected that the OLED lighting market will take off at about 2017-2018.