Material Manufacturers Make Advances in OLEDs

Materials development is one of the critical needs frequently being discussed throughout the printed electronics (PE) field. For pretty much every new application, new materials will be required in order to formulate and manufacture these products.

Photo courtesy of cynora GmbH.
There is plenty of good news along this front, and recent advancements show promise, particularly on the organic light emitting diode (OLED) front. The PE market continues to see news from Universal Display and Novaled, both of whom have made strong inroads in the OLED materials field, as well as cynora GmbH.

Located in Ewing, NJ, Universal Display specializes in its UniversalPHOLED materials, which offer excellent luminous efficiency, brilliant colors and long operating lifetimes, for OLED displays and lighting. Its materials are manufactured by PPG Industries; the company recently announced that Duksan Hi-Metal Company Limited will manufacture one of its products in Korea.

The company has numerous licensing agreements with major display and lighting manufacturers, including Samsung Mobile Display, (displays) and Panasonic Idemitsu OLED Lighting, Lumiotec and Pioneer Corporation (lighting). It has also received many contracts from the U.S. government, as well as awards such as mention in Deloitte's Technology 2011 Fast 500 ranking of the 500 fastest growing companies in the fields of technology, media, telecommunications, life sciences and clean technology.

Universal Display is continuing to expand its IP, both through its own R&D as well as acquiring FUJIFILM Corporation’s entire worldwide patent portfolio of more than 1,200 OLED patents and patent applications in July 2012.

These agreements are leading to bottom-line growth: Universal Display finished 2011 with its first-ever full-year profit, with revenues up 101% to $61.3 million, and its operating income and revenue numbers have continued to improve in 2012.

Novaled AG, Dresden, Germany, is a leader in the OLED field, specializing in high efficiency, long-lifetime OLED structures though its innovative air-stable organic materials and PIN OLED technology. As a result, hole and electron-transport as well as charge carrier injection are dramatically enhanced, and both lifetime and efficiency improvements have resulted.

Novaled has received much attention for its innovations in recent years, and just earned the European Company of the Year award as well as placement in the prestigious 2012 Global Cleantech 100 list produced by Cleantech Group.

Samsung Mobile Display (SMD) is among the companies that have taken notice of Novaled, recently entering into a licensing and purchase agreement to acquire dopant materials used in the transport layers of its AMOLED display modules from Novaled. Novaled will also provide its PIN OLED technology to SMD for production of SMD’s AMOLED display modules.

cynora GmbH, headquartered in Eggenstein-Leopoldshafen, Germany, is an interesting company to watch. Led by co-CEOs Dr. Thomas Baumann and Dr. Tobias Grab, both of whom are chemists, cynora is focusing on copper-based organic functional materials for OLEDs and organic photovoltaics (OPVs). cynora’s materials can be used to print onto thin foils, labels or as part of smart packaging.

The selection of copper has numerous advantages compared to the noble metals like iridium or platinum that are used today for OLEDs, most notably its cost and availability. These materials can be inkjet printed or knife-coated. As part of the cyFlex project in is working on with InnovationLab in Heidelberg, Germany, cynora announced that it has been able to produce flexible OLEDs utilizing its materials and processes.

“This is definitely a key milestone on the path to light-emitting foils for packaging,” said Dr. Baumann.

Besides the lower cost of organic products, flexible OLEDs could open up tremendous opportunities for display manufacturers, who could put these displays onto packaging and other non-flat surfaces.

There are plenty of opportunities for OLEDs in the marketplace, and while much of the focus is on big-screen OLED televisions, flexible OLEDs will ultimately have an opportunity in the market. Universal Display, Novaled and cynora are among the innovators who are developing the materials that are needed to move these products forward.