OLED Technology Makes Screens Clearer and More Durable
Once upon a time, say, 15 years ago, the big question for someone buying a television was LCD or plasma? We’re talking about the screen, of course. Liquid-crystal display, or LCD, ultimately became the display technology of choice, thanks to its super-sharp resolution and ability to produce a nearly pure black. The drawback for LCD screens, however, is that they require an LED backlighting source. So the black can neither be absolutely pure, nor the colors as vivid.
Neither as black nor as vivid as what, you ask? Time for another acronym: OLED, for organic light-emitting diode. Any AV guru can tell you that OLED technology provides the most vivid colors — the richest, boldest colors and the purest black — because the medium itself produces the light (or absence thereof). Printed onto a substrate (primarily glass, for durability and stability, but increasingly, plastic), OLED is like painting with light.
Partnerships Portend a Clearer Future
In partnership with DuPont, two companies are now using a process similar to ink-jet printing to develop OLED screens for their devices. The technology has not been perfected, but over the next two to three years, it is expected to make its mass-market debut, possibly replacing LCD displays as the screen of choice.
The drawback has always been cost. The cheapest TV with an OLED screen — all 55 inches of it — goes for about $2-3000. A comparable LCD TV can be had for $500 or less.
But when news broke in June 2016 that Samsung had invested nearly $7 billion in OLED production — possibly with an eye toward supplying screens for the next-gen iPhone in addition to its own products — the widespread introduction of OLED technology appeared inevitable, perhaps as early as 2017.
Consumers may wonder what all the fuss is about. Screens with OLED technology produce a cleaner, sharper image than their LCD counterparts. But there are other advantages as well. OLED requires less energy, so there’s the promise of longer smartphone battery life and cheaper electric bills.
Momentum Building for OLED Technology
Reid Chesterfield, who has been working on OLED technology R&D for DuPont for nearly all of his 13 years with the company, says he’s excited to see the technology on the verge of entering the mainstream. “There’s momentum building for large-scale OLED TV production,” Chesterfield says. “Our goal is to make a display using our materials that will reduce the price point to about $1000 for a 55-inch TV screen, to enable mass-market appeal.”
But to Chesterfield, it’s more than just dollars and cents. “To see scientists, like me and my colleagues, take their work and apply it to something that exists in the real world, that would be very satisfying.”