OLEDs from the printer
Not every scientist is lucky enough to encounter the fruits of his or her work at every turn in everyday life. Dr. Christine Boeffel from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP in the Potsdam Science Park has exactly that. It is very likely that she sees them every day in public when she looks at the many unfamiliar faces through the light of their smartphones. “About half of today’s smartphone displays contain OLEDs,” she explains.
OLEDs, short for Organic Light Emitting Diode, are organic light emitting diodes. As a result, we use them just like their similar-sounding relatives, the LEDs: OLEDs are primarily used in displays, such as those of smartphones – but their design and manufacture differ significantly from “conventional” LEDs. OLEDs are made of organic (i.e. carbon-based) semiconducting materials. This special feature is associated with a number of advantages. For one, the contrast of OLED displays is significantly higher than that of liquid crystal displays (LCDs). On the other hand, OLEDs have a significantly lower energy consumption. While commercially available OLEDs are manufactured using a vacuum process, Ms. Boeffel and her team are pursuing the approach of printing OLEDs. This offers a number of benefits over production in a vacuum process: better material utilization saves resources, the design is flexible and the components can be scaled to any size.