Organic light-emitting diode (OLED) technology works by using a light emitting organic compound that responds to an electric current. OLEDs create the digital displays we see on TV, smartphones, games consoles and computer screens.

Most people are fairly familiar with the terminology surrounding OLED, but what about its development and history? How did developers work out that this technology can be used to create super high contrast displays?

Development and evolution of OLED display tech

Back in the 1950s, a group of researchers at the University of Nancy in France led the way. The team, headed by André Bernanose, were the first to discover the presence of electroluminescence in organic materials. They did this through applying high voltages to various materials, including acridine orange, which were dissolved in cellophane thin films.

A decade later, a team led by Martin Pope at New York University developed the contacts that form the basis of charge injection in today’s OLED devices. In 1965, the team first reported their findings, and in the same year Dow Chemical researchers patented a method of using high voltage (up to 1500V) electrically insulated 1mm thin layers of melted phosphor to prepare electroluminescent cells.

The first practical OLED device was built in 1987 by Steven Van Slyke and Ching Wan Tang who worked for Eastman Kodak. Since then, subsequent research around the world has developed ever more efficient and high-quality devices. White OLEDs hit the shelves in the mid-1990s, when Kodak and Sanyo jointly produced the first active matrix full colour OLED display in the world. Today, the OLED tech market is worth an estimated US$18 billion.

Why OLED displays produce higher quality displays

OLED high contrast displays consist of an organic semiconductor sitting between a cathode and an anode. An electric current is applied to the semiconductor, resulting in a diffuse-area luminance. Compared with traditional LEDs (light-emitting diodes), OLED emissions are softer and emit far less glare.

A practical selling point of OLED displays is the fact that they can produce high contrast displays. This is because they can render a state of true black. For example, LCD (liquid-crystal displays) can’t achieve true black because they need LED backlighting to produce light. Therefore, power is used even when it’s rendering black. OLEDs don’t have this problem and so when they’re inactive they don’t consumer any power. Viewers therefore have better visual experiences thanks to the greater contrast ratios.

As there is no need for a backlight, OLED displays are also lighter, which allows a much wider viewing angle. This is the technology that has transformed the heavy TVs of old to the thin, sleek flatscreen displays. Increasing the current through the OLED’s semiconductor will lead to ever brighter displays. But this also shortens the lifetime of the device, as the extra current degrades the OLED faster. And this is where NextGen Nano’s research comes into the story.

Our newfusion division conducted in-depth research, which was published in 2019 in Nature Communications. The team discovered that selected organic semiconductors can achieve fluorescence using a lot less energy than current OLEDs.

The study found that the OLEDs produced 1,000 candela per square metre, that’s around half of the voltage needed by current OLEDs. Discovering that we can improve both power efficiency and slow down their deterioration opens up many development paths for the future of OLEDs.

Read more about newfusion, our innovate tech focused on low voltage blue OLEDs that can save operating voltage and last far longer than others.

About NextGen Nano Director of Operations Duncan Clark

Duncan Clark has a wide range of business interests, although these extend primarily across the clean technology and clean energy sectors. He brings a wealth of experience to his role of Director of Operations at NextGen Nano, which will help open the door to decentralised energy markets around the world.

How NextGen Nano Will Help Revolutionise the Future of Renewable Energy

Under the directorship of Duncan Clark, NextGen Nano have developed proprietary tech known as PolyPower. PolyPower is a ground-breaking technology that will transform the energy market and pave the way for a much more decentralised one. These decentralised energy uses can be utilised for a variety of applications, including wearable electronics, military head ware, drones, planes, electric vehicles, next generation yachting and much more.

Duncan Clark works closely with the team at NextGen Nano who focus on using nanotechnology to create alternative energy sources. Using biopolymers, this breakthrough technology replaces existing energy solutions to develop solar cells that produce efficient energy. This allows transparent, strong cells to be applied to all manner of flexible surfaces, resulting in a durable and cost-effective energy solution.