Organic light-emitting diode (OLED) technology is super energy efficient, but not yet all that cost effective, due to the fact that current OLED technology relies on rigid glass. Researchers in the University of Toronto’s Department of Materials Science & Engineering may have found a solution to this problem, however, in the form of a process that allows OLEDs to be built on plastic, allowing for a flexible form factor and lower manufacturing costs.
This breakthrough, recently documented in of Nature Photonics, reconstructs the high-refractive index property previously limited to heavy metal-doped glass by using a 50-100 nanometer thick layer of tantalum(V) oxide (Ta2O5), an advanced optical thin-film coating material. When applied to flexible plastic, this coating technique allowed researchers to build the highest-efficiency OLED device ever reported with a glass-free design.
The research on this process, which was supervised by Professor Zheng-Hong Lu and led by Ph.D. candidates Zhibin Wang and Michael G. Helander (interviewed in the video below), is expected to substantially reduce the cost of production for OLEDs, while providing designers with a more durable and flexible material for use in products.
“For years, the biggest excitement behind OLED technologies has been the potential to effectively produce them on flexible plastic,” Lu, the Canada Research Chair (Tier I) in Organic Optoelectronics, said in a statement. That potential is now set to be realized, with the potential to reduce manufacturing costs associated with the advanced electronic screens already used in some cell phone and other smaller-scale applications.