New Research promises cheap, flexible video displays

DuPont, Sarnoff and Bell Labs are working together to create a new generation of display technology that’s expected to result in flexible video monitors adaptable to nearly any form factor. It’s called Organic Thin Film Transistor Back Plane Technology (OLED).

The Organic Thin Film Transistor Back Plane Technology (OLED).

As part of a federally sponsored research and development initiative, DuPont and Sarnoff have agreed to develop new OLED displays on plastic substrates. The research could lead to the fabrication of lower cost flexible displays for cellular phones, PDAs, Internet access appliances, industrial and consumer electronics or any application where bright, colorful, high contrast, thin, video capable displays are required.

The three-year research initiative will be sponsored as a National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) Advanced Technology Program. Lucent Technologies’ Bell Labs, a leader in organic thin film transistors, will be subcontracted to develop a new class of organic-TFT materials and design processes. Lucent’s work will be combined with DuPont’s expertise in OLED display panels, flexible substrates, cost-effective printing and organic-TFT technologies, and; Sarnoff’s specialty in active matrix TFT designs and video display systems.

The technical venture wants to create flexible organic-TFT technology, which has the potential to dramatically reduce the cost of display back planes. Standard silicon-based TFT back plane manufacturing is a costly process with a need for billion-dollar facilities. It’s inherently incompatible with flexible plastic substrates that involve multiple high-temperature vacuum deposition and photolithography steps that are hostile to a plastic substrate.

Using advanced polymer materials, OLEDs produce bright, high-contrast display panels with fast refresh rates and a wide viewing angle. OLED panels are emissive, eliminating the need for the backlight required in display technologies such as liquid crystal displays (LCDs).

The new technology is expected to be available by 2007, with the first products being hand-held mobile communication devices such as cell phones and PDAs.

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