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The Material Technologies of OLED

Blaze Display Technology Co., Ltd. | Updated: Nov 27, 2018

Small molecules

Efficient OLEDs using small molecules were first developed by Ching W. Tang et al. at Eastman Kodak. The term OLED traditionally refers specifically to this type of device, though the term SM-OLED is also in use.

Molecules commonly used in OLEDs include organometallic chelates (for example Alq3, used in the organic light-emitting device reported by Tang et al.), fluorescent and phosphorescent dyes and conjugated dendrimers. A number of materials are used for their charge transport properties, for example triphenylamine and derivatives are commonly used as materials for hole transport layers. Fluorescent dyes can be chosen to obtain light emission at different wavelengths, and compounds such as perylene, rubrene and quinacridone derivatives are often used. Alq3 has been used as a green emitter, electron transport material and as a host for yellow and red emitting dyes.

The production of small molecule devices and displays usually involves thermal evaporation in a vacuum. This makes the production process more expensive and of limited use for large-area devices, than other processing techniques. However, contrary to polymer-based devices, the vacuum deposition process enables the formation of well controlled, homogeneous films, and the construction of very complex multi-layer structures. This high flexibility in layer design, enabling distinct charge transport and charge blocking layers to be formed, is the main reason for the high efficiencies of the small molecule OLEDs.

Coherent emission from a laser dye-doped tandem SM-OLED device, excited in the pulsed regime, has been demonstrated. The emission is nearly diffraction limited with a spectral width similar to that of broadband dye lasers.

Researchers report luminescence from a single polymer molecule, representing the smallest possible organic light-emitting diode (OLED) device. Scientists will be able to optimize substances to produce more powerful light emissions. Finally, this work is a first step towards making molecule-sized components that combine electronic and optical properties. Similar components could form the basis of a molecular computer.

Polymer light-emitting diodes

Polymer light-emitting diodes (PLED, P-OLED), also light-emitting polymers (LEP), involve an electroluminescent conductive polymer that emits light when connected to an external voltage. They are used as a thin film for full-spectrum colour displays. Polymer OLEDs are quite efficient and require a relatively small amount of power for the amount of light produced.

Vacuum deposition is not a suitable method for forming thin films of polymers. However, polymers can be processed in solution, and spin coating is a common method of depositing thin polymer films. This method is more suited to forming large-area films than thermal evaporation. No vacuum is required, and the emissive materials can also be applied on the substrate by a technique derived from commercial inkjet printing. However, as the application of subsequent layers tends to dissolve those already present, formation of multilayer structures is difficult with these methods. The metal cathode may still need to be deposited by thermal evaporation in vacuum. An alternative method to vacuum deposition is to deposit a Langmuir-Blodgett film.

Typical polymers used in PLED displays include derivatives of poly(p-phenylene vinylene) and polyfluorene. Substitution of side chains onto the polymer backbone may determine the colour of emitted light or the stability and solubility of the polymer for performance and ease of processing. While unsubstituted poly(p-phenylene vinylene) (PPV) is typically insoluble, a number of PPVs and related poly(naphthalene vinylene)s (PNVs) that are soluble in organic solvents or water have been prepared via ring opening metathesis polymerization. These water-soluble polymers or conjugated poly electrolytes (CPEs) also can be used as hole injection layers alone or in combination with nanoparticles like graphene.


Phosphorescent materials

Phosphorescent organic light-emitting diodes use the principle of electrophosphorescence to convert electrical energy in an OLED into light in a highly efficient manner, with the internal quantum efficiencies of such devices approaching 100%.

Typically, a polymer such as poly(N-vinylcarbazole) is used as a host material to which an organometallic complex is added as a dopant. Iridium complexes such as Ir(mppy)3 as of 2004 were a focus of research, although complexes based on other heavy metals such as platinum have also been used.

The heavy metal atom at the centre of these complexes exhibits strong spin-orbit coupling, facilitating intersystem crossing between singlet and triplet states. By using these phosphorescent materials, both singlet and triplet excitons will be able to decay radiatively, hence improving the internal quantum efficiency of the device compared to a standard OLED where only the singlet states will contribute to emission of light.

Applications of OLEDs in solid state lighting require the achievement of high brightness with good CIE coordinates (for white emission). The use of macromolecular species like polyhedral oligomeric silsesquioxanes (POSS) in conjunction with the use of phosphorescent species such as Ir for printed OLEDs have exhibited brightnesses as high as 10,000 cd/m2.

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