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Thinner, brighter displays one step closer

Kodak and Sanyo co-operate to push OLED screens

Could the future of flat-panel displays be organic? Kodak and Sanyo hope so. This week they unveiled a prototype 15in flat-panel OLED (organic light-emitting diode) display, based on Kodak's patented technology, at the Ceatec Japan trade show.

The active-matrix colour display features 1,280x720 resolution and a display area of 326x184mm. OLED displays offer bright, full-motion images that are viewable from a wide angle, explained Leslie Polgar, president of Kodak's display products business.

The displays are made from a specially designed organic thin-film material that emits light when stimulated by an electric charge. This provides a higher contrast than screens made from conventional technologies, resulting in improved readability in most lighting conditions. Polgar said OLEDs are very thin, have a 165-degree viewing angle and onscreen images are updated quickly enough to support streaming video.

OLED is looked upon as a promising display technology. In theory, such screens could be made even thinner than LCDs (liquid crystal displays) and consume less power. LCDs currently dominate the lucrative flat-panel market, but analysts don't expect OLED to unseat them anytime soon. As with all emerging technologies, it takes time to streamline production and boost yields for high efficiencies and volumes.

OLEDs are made from thin sheets of film coated with a highly fluorescent material that emits light when electrical current is applied. This electroluminescent film is easier to produce than liquid crystal screens. It also illuminates the screen more efficiently than backlit LCDs, which use an array of polarisers and colour filters.

In December, Kodak and Sanyo announced the formation of a global joint venture, SK Display, to manufacture OLED displays for consumer devices such as cameras, PDAs and portable entertainment machines.


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