OLEDs (organic light emitting diodes) have revolutionized screens and displays of all sorts – including televisions and telephones. Up until recently, the most efficient way to produce, bright, long-lasting OLEDs was to use glass – but researchers have been hard at work putting that technology on flexible, lightweight plastics. Researchers at the University of Toronto just announced that they have developed a new way to produce flexible, plastic-based OLEDs that are inexpensive and as efficient as OLEDs made with glass. Watch an interview with the researcher after the jump.

This discovery, unlocks the full potential of OLEDs, leading the way to energy-efficient, flexible and impact-resistant displays,” says Professor Zheng-Hong Lu, the Canada Research Chair (Tier I) in Organic Optoelectronics at the University of Toronto. Up until now researchers have been able to develop flexible, inexpensive OLEDs, but the efficiency of these OLEDs paled in comparison to those based on a glass substrate.

The team at University of Toronto paired a flexible plastic substrate with a 50-100 nanometer thick layer of tantalum oxide — an optical coating material — before layering the device with the film of organic compounds that emit light. The tantalum oxide was able to boost the charge of electricity and therefore provide a brightness generally not available in plastic substrate OLEDs. This groundbreaking development could pave the way to brighter and more efficient OLEDS that are less expensive to produce. The team envisions the new OLEDs being printed with a “newspaper printing” technique similar to the one developed by General Electric.

+ University of Toronto