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The Device architectures of OLED

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


Bottom emission

a) Bottom-emitting and b) top-emitting OLED structures; c,d) Schematic diagrams based on bottom-emitting and top-emitting OLEDs with low and high contrast ratio, respectively.

The bottom-emission organic light-emitting diode (BE-OLED) is the architecture that was used in the early-stage AMOLED displays. It had a transparent anode fabricated on a glass substrate, and a shiny reflective cathode. Light is emitted from the transparent anode direction. To reflect all the light towards the anode direction, a relatively thick metal cathode such as aluminum is used. For the anode, high-transparency indium tin oxide (ITO) was a typical choice to emit as much light as possible. Organic thin-films, including the emissive layer that actually generates the light, are then sandwiched between the ITO anode and the reflective metal cathode. The downside of bottom emission structure is that the light has to travel through the pixel drive circuits such as the thin film transistor (TFT) substrate, and the area from which light can be extracted is limited and the light emission efficiency is reduced.


Top emission

An alternative configuration is to switch the mode of emission. A reflective anode, and a transparent (or more often semi-transparent) cathode are used so that the light emits from the cathode side, and this configuration is called top-emission OLED (TE-OLED). Unlike BEOLEDs where the anode is made of transparent conductive ITO, this time the cathode needs to be transparent, and the ITO material is not an ideal choice for the cathode because of a damage issue due to the sputtering process. Thus, a thin metal film such as pure Ag and the Mg:Ag alloy are used for the semi-transparent cathode due to their high transmittance and high conductivity. In contrast to the bottom emission, light is extracted from the opposite side in top emission without the need of passing through multiple drive circuit layers. Thus, the light generated can be extracted more efficiently.


2. Improvements

Micro-cavity theory

Sony's Super Top Emission OLED technology enhances the color purity of emitted lights

When light waves meet while traveling along the same medium, wave interference occurs. This interference can be constructive or destructive. It is sometimes desirable for several waves of the same frequency to sum up into a wave with higher amplitudes.


Since both electrodes are reflective in TEOLED, light reflections can happen within the diode, and they cause more complex interferences than those in BEOLEDs. In addition to the two-beam interference, there exists a multi-resonance interference between two electrodes. Because the structure of TEOLEDs is similar to that of the Fabry-Perot resonator or laser resonator, which contains two parallel mirrors comparable to the two reflective electrodes), this effect is especially strong in TEOLED. This two-beam interference and the Fabry-Perot interferences are the main factors in determining the output spectral intensity of OLED. This optical effect is called the "micro-cavity effect."


In the case of OLED, that means the cavity in a TEOLED could be especially designed to enhance the light output intensity and color purity with a narrow band of wavelengths, without consuming more power. In TEOLEDs, the microcavity effect commonly occurs, and when and how to restrain or make use of this effect is indispensable for device design. To match the conditions of constructive interference, different layer thicknesses are applied according to the resonance wavelength of that specific color. The thickness conditions are carefully designed and engineered according to the peak resonance emitting wavelengths of the blue (460 nm), green (530 nm), and red (610 nm) color LEDs. This technology greatly improves the light-emission efficiency of OLEDs, and are able to achieve a wider color gamut due to high color purity.


Color filters

In "white + color filter method," red, green, and blue emissions are obtained from the same white-light LEDs using different color filters. With this method, the OLED materials produce white light which is then filtered to obtain the desired RGB colors. This method eliminated the need to deposit three different organic emissive materials so only one kind of OLED material is used to produce white light. It also eliminated the uneven degradation rate of blue pixels vs. red and green pixels. Disadvantages of this method are low color purity and contrast. Also, the filters absorb most of the light waves emitted, requiring the background white light to be relatively strong to compensate for the drop in brightness, and thus the power consumption for such displays can be higher.


Color filters can also be implemented into bottom- and top-emission OLEDs. By adding the corresponding RGB color filters after the semi-transparent cathode, even purer wavelengths of light can be obtained. The use of a microcavity in top-emission OLEDs with color filters also contributes to an increase in the contrast ratio by reducing the reflection of incident ambient light. In a conventional panel, a circular polarizer was installed on the panel surface. While this was provided to prevent the reflection of ambient light, it also reduced the light output. By replacing this polarizing layer with color filters, the light intensity is not affected, and essentially all ambient reflected light can be cut, allowing a better contrast on the display panel. This potentially reduced the need for brighter pixels, and can lower the power consumption.


3. Other architectures

Transparent OLEDs

Transparent OLEDs use transparent or semi-transparent contacts on both sides of the device to create displays that can be made to be both top and bottom emitting (transparent). TOLEDs can greatly improve contrast, making it much easier to view displays in bright sunlight. This technology can be used in Head-up displays, smart windows or augmented reality applications.


Graded heterojunction

Graded heterojunction OLEDs gradually decrease the ratio of electron holes to electron transporting chemicals. This results in almost double the quantum efficiency of existing OLEDs.


Stacked OLEDs

Stacked OLEDs use a pixel architecture that stacks the red, green, and blue subpixels on top of one another instead of next to one another, leading to substantial increase in gamut and color depth, and greatly reducing pixel gap. Other display technologies with RGB (and RGBW) pixels mapped next to each other, tend to decrease potential resolution.


Inverted OLED

In contrast to a conventional OLED, in which the anode is placed on the substrate, an Inverted OLED uses a bottom cathode that can be connected to the drain end of an n-channel TFT especially for the low cost amorphous silicon TFT backplane useful in the manufacturing of AMOLED displays.

All OLED displays (passive and active matrix) use a driver IC, often mounted using Chip-on-glass (COG), using an Anisotropic conductive film.

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