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Active OLEDs ready for prime time

15 Jul 2009

Analysts predict that active-matrix OLEDs will dominate future growth in the organic display market.

The global market for displays made from organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) will reach $7.1bn by 2016, according to new data from US market-research firm DisplaySearch. With annual sales of OLED displays topping out at $0.6bn in 2008, that represents a compound annual growth rate of 36%.

In its latest report, entitled Quarterly OLED Shipment and Forecast Report, DisplaySearch also reported that in the first quarter of 2009 revenues from active-matrix OLEDs for the first time surpassed those from passive-matrix devices.

According to Jennifer Colegrove, director of display technologies at DisplaySearch, large numbers of passive-matrix OLED displays have been sold for use in MP3 players and mobile phone sub-displays, but shipments have fallen in the last quarter as end-user demand has weakened.

The passive-matrix approach – in which each pixel is addressed by a current applied through a network of row and column electrodes – is ideal for small text-based displays, but is less suitable for applications requiring larger displays and video playback.

In contrast, active-matrix displays incorporate thin-film transistors into each pixel to control the current and therefore the light emission from each pixel. As a consequence, active-matrix OLED displays can be scaled to larger areas and higher pixel counts, and offer fast enough switching speeds to enable video playback without blurring.

"Active-matrix OLED displays have become an important differentiating feature for high-end electronic products," noted Colegrove. "There will be about 20 new or upgraded active-matrix OLED production lines installed or upgraded worldwide in the next three years."

According to Colegrove, active-matrix OLED displays are increasingly being used as the main display in mobile phones. The likes of Nokia, Samsung and Sony Ericsson have trumpeted the introduction of phones incorporating the technology in the first half of 2009, and more than 10 new models featuring active-matrix OLED displays have been released so far this year.

DisplaySearch also reported that global OLED display revenues totalled $143m in the first quarter of 2009, down 8% on the same time last year. However, the decline is entirely due to the fall in passive-matrix display shipments, with sales of active-matrix devices growing by 17% year-on-year.

And OLED manufacturers continue to push the limits of active-matrix OLED technology, with some announcing plans to launch television displays with a screen size of greater than 11 inch. in 2009. LG Display, in particular, is already mass-producing small-area active-matrix OLED displays, and says it will commercialize a 15 inch OLED-based television before the end of the year.

DataRay Inc.AUREA TECHNOLOGYBristol Instruments, Inc.LASEROPTIK GmbHAlluxaart Photonics GmbHALIO Industries
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