How Stuff Works: How OLEDs Work
OLEDs are solid-state devices composed of thin films of organic molecules that create light with the application of electricity. OLEDs can provide brighter, crisper displays on electronic devices and use less power than conventional light-emitting diodes (LEDs) or liquid crystal displays (LCDs) used today.
In this article, you will learn how OLED technology works, what types of OLEDs are possible, how OLEDs compare to other lighting technologies and what problems OLEDs need to overcome.
The LCD is currently the display of choice in small devices and is also popular in large-screen TVs. Regular LEDs often form the digits on digital clocks and other electronic devices. OLEDs offer many advantages over both LCDs and LEDs:
- The plastic, organic layers of an OLED are thinner, lighter and more flexible than the crystalline layers in an LED or LCD.
- Because the light-emitting layers of an OLED are lighter, the substrate of an OLED can be flexible instead of rigid. OLED substrates can be plastic rather than the glass used for LEDs and LCDs.
- OLEDs are brighter than LEDs. Because the organic layers of an OLED are much thinner than the corresponding inorganic crystal layers of an LED, the conductive and emissive layers of an OLED can be multi-layered. Also, LEDs and LCDs require glass for support, and glass absorbs some light. OLEDs do not require glass.
- OLEDs do not require backlighting like LCDs (see How LCDs Work). LCDs work by selectively blocking areas of the backlight to make the images that you see, while OLEDs generate light themselves. Because OLEDs do not require backlighting, they consume much less power than LCDs (most of the LCD power goes to the backlighting). This is especially important for battery-operated devices such as cell phones.
- OLEDs are easier to produce and can be made to larger sizes. Because OLEDs are essentially plastics, they can be made into large, thin sheets. It is much more difficult to grow and lay down so many liquid crystals.
- OLEDs have large fields of view, about 170 degrees. Because LCDs work by blocking light, they have an inherent viewing obstacle from certain angles. OLEDs produce their own light, so they have a much wider viewing range.