Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Panasonic may produce a full-size OLED TV display

Matsushita -- which owns the Panasonic name brand -- indicated to a Japanese business daily newspaper that it plans to beat competitors to the punch, by mass producing a 37-inch organic light-emitting diode (OLED) television within the next three years.

According to the Japanese Sankei Shimbun, Matsushita is aiming for a 37-inch OLED -- the first OLED TV above 30-inches available to consumers -- with a target price of ~$1,400.

Sony has an 11-inch OLED TV it launched in Japan and has brought to US markets. Its 11-inch Xel-1, whose resolution is a bit less than true HDTV, is currently available through Amazon for a whopping $2,499.99. Meanwhile, Samsung is actively working on several different OLED TV models it hopes will be available in the coming years, including some which it previewed at the last CES.

While liquid crystal displays (LCD) and surface-conduction electron-emitter (SED) TVs have been available for several years, engineers and consumers are anxiously awaiting the OLED revolution.

To emit light, OLEDs use electrophosphorescence, which is a biological process that researchers have worked diligently to re-create non-biologically. Either a battery or power supply must supply a current across the OLED, which flows from a cathode to the anode through several organic layers, each comprised of doped fluorocarbon polymers less than 0.5 thousandths of a millimeter thick. In so doing, the current gives electrons to the so-called emissive layer, and takes them away from the conductive layer, leaving holes which the emissive layer's electrons are just aching to fill.

The jump between layers to fill the gap is what produces light, and the color of that light depends on the makeup of the organic molecules on those layers. Colors can be changed by providing a higher amount of electrical current, which produces a brighter light. As a result, OLEDs are self-luminous and do not need backlighting like LCDs, while energy efficiency dramatically increases.

Furthermore, the thinness of OLEDs means that they could one day be flexible enough to be rolled up, while providing a 170 degree viewing angle.

Once OLED technology is established, it is expected to make its way outside of TVs to mobile phones, portable video game screens, and computer monitors. But manufacturers must overcome several different problems that may undermine the growth of the technology. For instance, while the green and red LEDs can provide 10,000 to 40,000 hours of use over a lifetime, the blue LEDs typically offer just 3,000 to 5,000 hours of use. The cost of manufacturing OLED technology remains extremely high, causing TV manufacturers to roll out OLED TV production slowly.

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