The LCD is currently the display of choice in small devices and is also popular in large-screen TVs. Regular LEDs often form the digits on digital clocks and other electronic devices. OLEDs offer many advantages over both LCDs and LEDs:
- The plastic, organic layers of an OLED are thinner, lighter and more flexible than the crystalline layers in an LED or LCD.
- Because the light-emitting layers of an OLED are lighter, the substrate of an OLED can be flexible instead of rigid. OLED substrates can be plastic rather than the glass used for LEDs and LCDs.
- OLEDs are brighter than LEDs. Because the organic layers of an OLED are much thinner than the corresponding inorganic crystal layers of an LED, the conductive and emissive layers of an OLED can be multi-layered. Also, LEDs and LCDs require glass for support, and glass absorbs some light. OLEDs do not require glass.
- OLEDs do not require backlighting like LCDs (see How LCDs Work). LCDs work by selectively blocking areas of the backlight to make the images that you see, while OLEDs generate light themselves. Because OLEDs do not require backlighting, they consume much less power than LCDs (most of the LCD power goes to the backlighting). This is especially important for battery-operated devices such as cell phones.
- OLEDs are easier to produce and can be made to larger sizes. Because OLEDs are essentially plastics, they can be made into large, thin sheets. It is much more difficult to grow and lay down so many liquid crystals.
- OLEDs have large fields of view, about 170 degrees. Because LCDs work by blocking light, they have an inherent viewing obstacle from certain angles. OLEDs produce their own light, so they have a much wider viewing range.
Problems with OLED
OLED seems to be the perfect technology for all types of displays, but it also has some problems:
- Lifetime - While red and green OLED films have longer lifetimes (46,000 to 230,000 hours), blue organics currently have much shorter lifetimes (up to around 14,000 hours[source: OLED-Info.com]).
- Manufacturing - Manufacturing processes are expensive right now.
- Water - Water can easily damage OLEDs.
In the next section, we'll talk about some current and future uses of OLEDs.