GE Global Research, the centralized research organization of General Electric, announced on March 13 the successful demonstration of the world's first roll-to-roll manufactured organic light-emitting diode (OLED) lighting devices.
OLEDs are thin, organic materials sandwiched between two electrodes, which illuminate when an electrical charge is applied. They represent the next evolution in lighting products. Their widespread design capabilities will provide an entirely different way for people to light their homes or businesses.
The development of this low cost roll-to-roll manufacturing process has the potential to eliminate the manufacturing hurdles that currently exist in preventing a more widespread adoption of high performance organic electronics technologies such as OLED lighting. The unique commercial equipment and technology needed to enable high performance-based organic electronics products does not currently exist. The few organic electronics products on the market today are made with more conventional batch processes and are relatively high cost, according to a company statement. A roll-to-roll manufacturing infrastructure that enables high performance and low cost devices will allow a more widespread adoption of organic electronics products.
"Researchers have long dreamed of making OLEDs using a newspaper-printing like roll-to-roll process," said Anil Duggal, manager of GE's Advanced Technology Program in Organic Electronics. "Now we've shown that it is possible. Commercial applications in lighting require low manufacturing costs, and this demonstration is a major milestone on our way to developing low cost OLED lighting devices."
Duggal continued, "Beyond OLEDs, this technology also could have broader impact in the manufacturing of other organic electronic devices such as organic photovoltaics for solar energy conversion, sensors and roll-up displays."
The demonstration of a low-cost, roll-to-roll process for OLED lighting was a four-year, $13 million research collaboration among GE Global Research, Energy Conversion Devices, Inc. and the U.S. Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The goal of the collaboration was to demonstrate a cost-effective system for the mass production of organic electronics products such as flexible electronic paper displays, portable TV screens the size of posters, solar powered cells and high-efficiency lighting devices.