This can be a problem, says Henning Sirringhaus, a physicist at Cambridge University, and co-founder of another company, Plastic Logic, that develops plastic electronics. “Most polymer light-emitter solvents have quite common properties,” so it can be difficult to find ones which won’t influence each other, he says.
With Polar OLED’s approach, the polymer layers are inherently stable, so stacking them or printing them close together is feasible, says Kelly. This makes it possible to print high-resolution OLEDs, he adds.
Sirringhaus says that Polar OLED’s solution is interesting, but notes that it can be difficult for a new display material to break into a mature market. “The bar is high in terms of performance,” he says.
The company’s technology could, however, also be used to make LCD backlights more cheaply. One of the big advantages of the company’s material is that it produces polarized light, says Kelly. LCDs normally require two polarizing layers in order to work. “It would make it a lot cheaper because a large part of the cost of LCDs is the polarizers,” says Kelly.
This would be a genuine advantage, says Michael Edelman, CEO of Nanoco Technologies in Manchester, UK. Nanoco is developing quantum-dot-based white backlights for displays. Backlights usually consist of white light-emitting diodes shone in at the sides of the display through waveguides, but the quality of white light produced by these LEDs has its limits.
“We will certainly keep an eye on these guys,” says Edelman. But he says it remains to be seen how well the company’s new material performs. “People have been talking about OLEDs for 15 years, about how they are going to knock LCD off its perch and take over the world,” he says. “And yet they have tended to overpromise and underdeliver.”