Wearable Displays and Flexible Lighting: Next Generation of Displays and Lighting Based on OLEDs and QLEDs

13 May 2016

On Tuesday 12 April 2016, delegates gathered at SCI in Belgravia, London for a one-day conference to review the next generation of displays and lighting based on organic and quantum dot light emitting diodes (OLEDs and QLEDs). Discussions covered topics such as funding projects and the device marketplace, and from the processing and encapsulation of devices to the incorporation of OLEDs in textiles.

Following opening comments by the conference chair, Prof P Kathirgamanathan, the chair of the morning session, Dr Paul Reid of Intrinsiq Materials welcomed everyone to the conference and introduced the first speaker of the day, Dr G Chansin of IDtechEX.

Dr Chansin discussed the market, trends and forecasts for wearables/flexibles and smart surfaces that is estimated to be worth US$23 billion by 2020. His talk was followed by Dr J Foulkes of PIL Membranes, who explained how different types of membranes are used and integrated into garments to impart functionality into fabric and how it is anticipated that one of the major applications of wearable OLEDs will be to enhance visibility of emergency services clothing.

Before the morning coffee break, Dr Ganesan Palaniswamy of TATA Steel discussed the potential of flexible steel as a substrate for OLEDs.

The second session of the day was chaired by Dr D Birkett who introduced Dr Krishnamurthy, former director of OLED materials at Kodak. Dr Krishnamurthy shared some of his extensive experience with the delegates when it comes to commercialising OLED technologies and stressed that material purity is a critical factor in this process. Prof Kathirgamanathan discussed the maturation of the OLED market and the potential offered by QLEDs in the coming 10-20 years. The implication of the new colour specification of REC 2020 and the consequent need for new materials including Quantum Dots was highlighted.

Dr Peter Baumann, project manager of organic semiconductor technologies gave the final talk of the morning. Dr Baumann presented an overview of the facilities at Aixtron, including Aixtron’s impressive Gen 8.5 organic vapour phase deposition equipment that is expected to provide considerably higher yields than vacuum thermal evaporation.

Chaired by Dr Baumann, the penultimate session began with a talk by Dr Paul Reip (Intrinsiq Materials). Dr Reip’s team has developed the know-how around printing copper nanoparticle inks and is now engaged in a series of projects exploring potential applications for the technology, including printing copper onto fabric. Dr Reip was followed by Chris Jones of Novalia, whose company is essentially a design house for printed and printable electronics. Novalia is exploring the potential of flexographic printing of conductive materials to act as top and bottom contacts in devices and is currently aiming to increase the conductivity of carbon inks by introducing graphene into the solution.

Dr Mikko Söderlund, head of thin film encapsulation solutions at Beneq gave a fascinating presentation on the atmospheric layer deposition (ALD) equipment being developed to deposit barrier layers on plastic electronics, with Beneq’s target cost of deposition by ALD being <€1/m2. Beneq is also working with the Centre for Process Innovation to enable roll-2-roll ALD on PET.

The electronics sector is envisaged to be a key growth market for chemical companies like Robinson Brothers; Dr Greig Milsom of Endeavour Chemicals/Robinson Brothers completed the third session of the day with a discussion of the material requirements for the individual layers typically making up an OLED and, mirroring Dr Krishnamurthy’s talk in the morning, stressed how purity is critical for electronics, even compared to that in pharmaceuticals.

The last session of the conference was chaired by Prof Kathirgamanathan.

It began with a presentation by Dr Ben Coombs of the Printable Electronics Technology Centre(PETEC)/Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) who discussed the properties and structure of organic thin film transistors and thus their suitability for use in flexibles and wearables.

Dr Kapsali of the University of the Arts focused on the design opportunities of wearable OLEDs for both fashion and functionality. Dr Kapsali said that involving designers earlier in the technology pipeline will be a win-win scenario.

Alf Smith of the CPI outlined an EU-funded project (Pi-Scale) underway at the CPI whose objective is develop large area electronic applications.

Dr Peter Levermore of Merck Chemicals discussed the material requirements for the individual layers typically making up an OLED and how Merck is meeting that challenge by working with its customers. Finally, Myrrdin Jones of Innovate UK outlined how the funding organisation can be used to financially-support new emerging technology projects.

The meeting was sponsored by the Materials Chemistry Group, SCI and Society of Information Displays (UK Chapter).

By Dr Lisa Bushby

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