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Julie Brown, chief technology officer at Universal Display, says that OLED technology has improved greatly over the past several years. The life span of the organic materials has increased by a factor of ten in the past two years, she says, and “there have been fundamental molecular-level materials discoveries, design and manufacturing improvements over the last five to ten years.”

Other OLED players, including Cambridge Display, based in Cambridge, England (see a recent Cambridge Display announcement), and the Netherlands’s Philips Electronics, are improving the technology for displays as well as for the farther-out application of general white-light illumination, which would consist of glowing white sheets. But it’s the color OLED displays that are reaching mass production.

Already, OLED displays made by Samsung, Sony, and others have been sold in products in Asian countries but generally not in Europe or North America. “The Asian-community consumers are much more demanding for high-performance electronics,” says Brown. “People here take a long time” to adopt new technology. “Also, for manufacturers to break into the U.S. market, production volume needs to be up there.”

Samsung has said that it will start production in early 2007. “It’s very significant because they are a high-volume mass manufacturer,” says Brown. “There have been a number of products launched, but everyone is watching Samsung.” Sony, which launched an OLED effort for PDAs a few years ago but then abandoned the devices, also jumped back into the technology last year by launching a Walkman with an OLED display.

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