OLEDs are already used in the displays of smart phones or digital cameras today. They offer an especially bright image with high contrast, but come with a serious drawback: typically, only one quarter of the electrical energy invested in running the device is actually converted into light. This ratio can be raised by adding traces of noble metals such as platinum or iridium to the active material, but these elements are rare and very expensive. Making high-quality OLEDs is therefore a rather costly business.
This could change in the near future. The scientists from Bonn, Regensburg and the US have demonstrated a novel type of OLED, which shows potential for high conversion efficiencies without having to resort to noble metals. OLED displays could well get quite a bit cheaper soon.
OLEDs aren't really "organic"
OLEDs are called so because, ideally, they are made up of organic molecules, which consist solely of carbon and hydrogen. The operating principle of an OLED is rather simple: a thin film of the molecules is contacted by electrodes, which are connected to a battery so that an electrical current can flow. This current is made up of positive and negative charges. When the charges meet, they annihilate, destroying each other in a flash of light.
Since positive and negative charges attract each other, generating light from electricity should be a pretty efficient business. The problem lies in the intricate quantum-mechanical nature of charges, which also posses a magnetic moment scientists call this the "spin". Charges with like spin repel each other, much as the north poles of two bar magnets do. This repulsion outweighs the attraction between positive and negative charges, so that different charges with like spin cannot generate light. Instead, they convert electrical energy into heat a rather exotic and not overly useful way of electrical heating.
In conventional OLEDs this loss of energy occurs freq
|Contact: Dr. Sigurd Höger|
University of Bonn