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Organic light emitting diodes (OLEDs) aren’t quite as energy efficient as normal LEDs, but they’re still far more efficient than traditional light bulbs – and new research could revolutionize their production. Researchers from the University of Louisville in Kentucky are developing “hybrid” OLEDs combined with inorganic quantum dots that increase both the efficiency and the range of colors that can be produced. But the most interesting wrinkle of the new research is how they’ll be produced—with inkjet printers.

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The inorganic quantum dots that the researchers used are tiny semiconductor crystals that emit different colors depending on how big they are. As a result, the increase the range of colors of OLEDs that can be produced. OLEDs can also be applied to flexible surfaces, which could open up a whole new range of possibilities.

The most interesting aspect of the research is how the OLEDs will be produced. The researchers developed a new production method using inkjet printing. Up to this point, expensive materials and manufacturing have prevented OLEDs from being widely used in consumer lighting. But the use of inkjet printing could change that. The University of Louisville team used inexpensive inkjet printers to spray quantum dots and OLED materials onto a surface.

In addition to being energy efficient, the OLEDs being developed at the University of Louisville use low-toxicity materials, which would also decrease their overall environmental impact. “Ultimately we want to have low cost, low toxicity, and the ability to make flexible devices,” said Delaina Amos in a statement.

via PhysOrg