An international research project has begun that could help bring to mass-market organic light emitting devices (OLEDs), which could have far reaching technological implications and cut the cost of lighting by billion of pounds each year.
Because the devices are thin and flexible, lighting and electronic display screens could for the first time be created on almost any material, so that clothes and packaging can display electronic information.
The devices’ uses could vary from lighting that is many times more efficient than current bulbs to clothes whose colour can be changed at will and beer cans that display the latest football results.
At present, the devices are used as displays in some mobile phones and MP3 players, but they are not reliable enough for larger screens such as in TVs and computers as they stop working after a few months.
But now an international consortium of researchers, led by the University of Bath, UK, has begun an £850,000 ($1,700,000), three-year project to put the science behind the devices on a firmer basis, so helping make them efficient enough to be worth producing for the mass market.
The consortium, called Modecom, consists of 13 groups from nine universities and two companies. Three groups are from the UK, six from the USA, and one each from China, Belgium, Italy and Denmark. The European Union is funding the European and Chinese partners.
The devices exploit a discovery made around 15 years ago that some polymers have the unusual property of either turning electricity into light, or light into electricity, depending on how the devices are made.
Because these polymers are thin and flexible, they could be used in a multiplicity of ways:
- as a transparent window. This is like a conventional window during the day, but when it gets dark a switch is turned on and the entire window area emits light in a more efficient way than conventional or energy saving bulbs, promising huge savings
- in garments which could change colour at the press of a button
- in clothing which displays strips of the polymer which run off solar power, allowing electronic messages to be displayed which can be updated. This could be useful for the emergency services such as police or ambulance
- in packaging for common goods that could be made to display electronic messages such as health warnings and recipes, or could emit light
- as a source of solar power to top up mobile phones batteries
- as lightweight, solar power sources that could be rolled up and stored and which would also be ideal for people requiring electricity in remote locations, such as field researchers, mountaineers, sailors and military personnel.
The consortium is co-ordinated by Dr Alison Walker, of the University of Bath’s Department of Physics, who said: "This is a long-term project, and the contributions of many scientists are needed for its success.
“The experimentalists make measurements to test the efficiency of the devices, but it’s hard to get a clear picture of what is going on at present. This project is about making that picture clearer using computer models to develop the theory.
“Success in achieving the goals of cheap, efficient and long lasting devices is essential as we must do everything we can to reduce our energy costs.“
The polymer is made from chains of molecules, and is called organic because these contain carbon. Electrons and holes injected into the polymer film form bound states called excitons that break down under electrical current, emitting light as they do so.
Dr Walker’s part of the consortium’s research uses a mathematical technique called Monte Carlo analysis in which computer-generated random numbers are used to plot the paths of electrons, holes and excitons as they move across the film.
The results from this can be used to calculate how the chemical structure and impurities affect the device’s performance. Chemists can use this data to design more efficient materials.
The Modecom consortium will work on the molecular level and also look at the workings of the device as a whole. This research will also aid the understanding of the polymer materials used in plastic electronics in applications such as electronic paper and intelligent labels on groceries.
Tony Trueman | alfa
Tangled magnetic fields power cosmic particle accelerators
14.12.2018 | DOE/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory
In search of missing worlds, Hubble finds a fast evaporating exoplanet
14.12.2018 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
The more objects we make "smart," from watches to entire buildings, the greater the need for these devices to store and retrieve massive amounts of data quickly without consuming too much power.
Millions of new memory cells could be part of a computer chip and provide that speed and energy savings, thanks to the discovery of a previously unobserved...
What if, instead of turning up the thermostat, you could warm up with high-tech, flexible patches sewn into your clothes - while significantly reducing your...
A widely used diabetes medication combined with an antihypertensive drug specifically inhibits tumor growth – this was discovered by researchers from the University of Basel’s Biozentrum two years ago. In a follow-up study, recently published in “Cell Reports”, the scientists report that this drug cocktail induces cancer cell death by switching off their energy supply.
The widely used anti-diabetes drug metformin not only reduces blood sugar but also has an anti-cancer effect. However, the metformin dose commonly used in the...
A research team from the University of Zurich has developed a new drone that can retract its propeller arms in flight and make itself small to fit through narrow gaps and holes. This is particularly useful when searching for victims of natural disasters.
Inspecting a damaged building after an earthquake or during a fire is exactly the kind of job that human rescuers would like drones to do for them. A flying...
Over the last decade, there has been much excitement about the discovery, recognised by the Nobel Prize in Physics only two years ago, that there are two types...
12.12.2018 | Event News
10.12.2018 | Event News
06.12.2018 | Event News
14.12.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering
14.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
14.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy