GE Global Research, the centralized research organization of General Electric, and GE Consumer and Industrial, today announced the successful demonstration of the world's first roll-to-roll manufactured organic light-emitting diode (OLED) lighting devices. This demonstration is a key step toward making OLEDs and other high performance organic electronics products at dramatically lower costs than what is possible today.
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. Moreover, OLEDs have the potential to deliver dramatically improved levels of efficiency and environmental performance, while achieving the same quality of illumination found in traditional products in the marketplace today with less electrical power.
"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."
"For businesses, architects, lighting designers and anyone interested in pushing the envelope to achieve increasingly energy-efficient lighting - and vastly expanded lighting design capabilities - today marks the day that viable, commercialized OLED lighting solutions are coming into view," said Michael Petras, GE Consumer & Industrial's Vice President of Electrical Distribution and Lighting. "We have more work to do before we can give customers access to GE-quality OLED solutions, but it's now easier to envision OLEDs becoming another high-efficiency GE offering, like LEDs, fluorescent or halogen."
The demonstration of a low-cost, roll-to-roll process for OLED lighting represents the successful completion of 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.
ECD Senior Vice President Nancy Bacon said, "This program was a major step in developing high volume roll-to-roll manufacturing for OLEDs and other organic semiconductor devices. The success of this program is testimony to the effectiveness of NIST's advanced technology program model, and our 20-year history of pioneering research in roll-to-roll technology. We currently are utilizing this technology to mass produce our flexible, durable and lightweight UNI-SOLAR brand solar laminates. ECD looks forward to continuing collaboration with GE to further develop this technology for future commercialization."
GE researchers provided the organic electronics technology and were responsible for developing the roll-to-roll processes, while ECD provided its unique roll-to-roll equipment-building expertise to build the machine that manufactures the OLED devices. The machine is being utilized for further manufacturing research at GE's Global Research Center in Niskayuna, New York.
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. A roll-to-roll manufacturing infrastructure that enables high performance and low cost devices will allow a more widespread adoption of organic electronics products.
GE's OLED Research Program
GE, as part of its ecomagination initiative, has made substantial investments in OLED research that has resulted in world records for OLED lighting device size and efficiency. In 2004, researchers were able to demonstrate an OLED device that was fully functional as a 24-inch by 24-inch panel, which produced 1,200 lumens of light with an efficiency on par with today's incandescent bulb technology. This was the first demonstration that OLED technology potentially could be used for lighting applications. Since then, GE has more than doubled the level of OLED efficiency using device architectures that are scalable to a large area and can be produced cost-effectively.
The efforts to increase the efficiency and performance of OLED lighting have coincided with the development of a low-cost, roll-to-roll process for manufacturing these devices. The ultimate goal of GE's research program is to introduce OLED lighting products to market by the year 2010.