Working Toward Printed OLEDs and Solar Cells
We have all come accustomed to LCDs as they surround us in phones, televisions, monitors, cameras, and more, but that ubiquitous technology has a rival that could potentially take its throne. That technology is the organic light emitting diode (OLED) and it has several qualities that could make it the display technology and light source of tomorrow, but tomorrow has not yet come. Researchers at Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft though have brought that day a great deal closer by finally starting to realize a promise for OLEDs.
The organic compounds used in OLEDs are naturally flexible. While this obviously allows for OLED displays and lights to be flexible, it can also allow for those devices to be printed like a newspaper. Put the ingredients in one end of the machine and at the other end, you get a finished product. Thus far though, such printing technology has been limited to laboratories and not ready for commercial manufacturing. That is what the researchers have started to change by developing the technology for large-scale printing of OLEDs and other organic electronics. The printer uses a robot to control the printers that spray layers of the appropriate polymer molecules onto a plastic substrate, like an inkjet printer deposits ink on paper. When done, you have a working organic-electronic device.
In its current form though, this printing technology is not quite ready for commercial use, in part because it is still expensive to set up. This will limit the potential applications of the printed OLEDs, but with the technology now available, others can learn from and improve it, and perhaps build something capable of mass production.