Holst Centre and imec launch research program on flexible OLED displays

January 17, 2012 // By Julien Happich
Holst Centre and imec have launched a new research program on next-generation flexible OLED (organic light emitting diode) displays. It builds on their proven technology track record and solid base of existing research partners in related fields such as Organic and Oxide Transistors and Flexible OLED Lighting. The primary objective of the new program is to develop an economically scalable route to high-volume manufacturing of flexible active-matrix OLED displays.

The shared program will bring together partners from across the value chain to tackle challenges such as high resolution, low power consumption, large area, outdoor readability, flexibility and light weight. Today, state-of-the-art OLED displays are small and mobile and used in applications such as smart phones and tablet PCs. They are characterized by a strong contrast compared to conventional LCDs due to the fact that OLED pixels emit only when activated, achieving a more intense black. Moreover, OLEDs have a faster response time, eliminating image lag. OLEDs can also consume less power, depending on the usage profile, while providing better contrast and viewing angle than conventional LCDs. OLEDs are also much simpler in design and contain less components compared to LCDs, enabling substantial process cost reductions.

The ambition of the new program is work towards flexible, high-resolution OLED displays. The program will tackle the individual challenges towards the next-generation of OLED displays: a mechanically flexible encapsulation film and TFT backplane; and printed, high-efficiency OLEDs. New materials and processes that allow for cheaper production, better quality, lower power, more robustness and more flexibility will be developed. Moreover, the design of the drivers, pixel circuits and TFT backplane matrix will be reconsidered as increasing display area influences the amount of pixels-per-inch or the refresh rates. Finally the program scope includes the development of new manufacturing equipment such as fine patterning equipment for backplanes and tools for integrated roll-to-roll manufacturing.

Paul Heremans (imec), Program Manager of the OLED Display Program: “With this program in mind, we already have been working more and more towards integrating separate building blocks and have realized OLED displays using both organic and metal oxide TFT backplanes. Thin, plastic substrates were used, and the displays were fully encapsulated using our state-of-the-art barrier technology. Part of this was done with other research institutes in a European project called FLAME, but we could really pull this off because of intense collaboration