GE demonstrates OLED breakthrough

Officials at GE Global Research announced Tuesday that they have successfully demonstrated the world

Officials at GE Global Research announced Tuesday that they have successfully demonstrated the world’s first “roll-to-roll manufactured organic light-emitting diode,” a key breakthrough into commercializing that technology into a substitute for General Electric Co. founder Thomas Edison’s most famous invention, the light bulb.

Anil Duggal, manager of GE’s Advanced Technology Program in Organic Electronics, said research team of about 30 scientists in Niskayuna over the last four years developed the roll-to-roll process that allows the organic light-emitting diodes, known as OLEDs, to be printed onto thin film sheets, almost like a newspaper.

“The more [OLEDs] you can make in a certain amount of time, given a certain amount of equipment, the lower the cost of the product,” Duggal said.

OLEDs are thin, organic materials sandwiched between two electrodes, which illuminate when an electrical charge is applied. They are distinct from light-emitting diodes, LEDs, in that they are created using carbon-based organic materials that create a diffuse lighting source unlike LEDs which use non-carbon-based materials and create a focused point of light like a flashlight.

GE officials estimate the OLED small display screen market is approximately $1 billion worldwide. Sony manufactures an OLED TV product called the XEL-1. Duggal said the OLEDs Sony uses are made through a “batched semiconductor process” with too high a cost structure for the lighting market that GE hopes to break its OLEDs into.

“Relative to the expense of making these OLED TVs [our roll-to-roll process] is 1,000 to 10,000 times less cost. They talk about dollars per square inch when [TV manufacturing companies] talk about OLEDs. We need to be talking about dollars per square meter,” Duggal said.

According to GE officials the roll-to-roll OLED demonstration project was made possible by the successful completion of a four-year, $13 million research collaboration among GE Global Research, Energy Conversion Devices Inc. and the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology. The goal of the collaboration was to demonstrate a cost-effective system for the mass production of organic electronics products such as flexible electronic paper displays, portable TV screens as thin as paper posters, solar powered cells and high-efficiency lighting devices.

Duggal said GE’s OLED’s are twice as efficient as traditional incandescent bulbs and last five times as long, both marks the company would like to double.

GE Global Research spokesman Todd Alhart said in the near-term GE is targeting high-end markets where the cost of OLED technology will be justified by its unique capabilities, such as being very thin and flexible. He said GE hopes to bring an OLED lighting product to market by 2010.

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