14 Sep 2010
Three SBIR awards are focused on developing organic LED technology for high-efficiency lighting.
Organic LED technology developer Universal Display Corporation (UDC) has won three of seven new small-business grants awarded by the US Department of Energy (DOE), to improve solid-state lighting technology in various ways. The grants include one Phase II award and two Phase I awards.
The Phase II SBIR award is focused on the development of “ultra-high-efficiency” phosphorescent organic LEDs for lighting applications. The aim is to produce a white-light source operating at 120 lm/W by improving out-coupling of light from the OLED structure through high-index substrates and low-voltage operation.
The project will also make use of new phosphorescent host materials that are matched energetically to transport layers.
In the two Phase I SBIR awards, UDC will be focusing on thermal management issues and optical improvements. Because high operating temperatures are known to degrade OLED lifetimes, improved thermal management is a particularly important area.
UDC’s researchers will fabricate square 15 cm panels using various designs, to study thermal impacts in detail. The end result should be lower-temperature operation, which will in turn help to extend OLED product lifetimes.
In the other Phase I project, UDC is addressing problems with light extraction. At the moment, relatively bulky extraction units are needed to deliver high-efficacy OLED lighting panels, detracting from the overall appearance and making the technology more costly to produce and ship. Under the new project, UDC will develop low-cost, thin materials for improved light extraction.
Founded way back in 1994, UDC’s business model is largely based on technology licensing and transfer activity, although it does also sell high-performance OLED materials.
Last month, the company reported a net loss of $4.4 million on revenues of $8.5 million in its latest financial quarter, although things are expected to improve. At the time, company CFO Sidney Rosenblatt indicated that demand for active-matrix OLED displays was outstripping supply, meaning good news for UDC.
“Manufacturers are in the process of significantly expanding their capacity for small-area OLED display applications, and migration to larger-format displays is expected,” said Rosenblatt. “In addition, the development of white OLED lighting should create another exciting market opportunity for our technology and materials.”
The DOE announced a further four awards, in addition to those received by UDC. These included SBIR grants awarded to ORBITEC for solid-state lighting in agricultural applications; to Advanced Cooling Technologies for a dielectric printed circuit board for use as an advanced heat spreader; and to Luminus Devices for more efficient AC-DC conversion to drive large-area LEDs.
The one STTR awarded by the DOE this time around went to Sinmat, which will develop a low-cost microlens engineered substrate. The idea of this award is to improve light extraction at substrate interfaces by eliminating waveguided modes inside the substrate material and active layers.