ID Interviews Andreas Haldi, CMO of CYNORA GmbH
ID magazine recently had the opportunity to talk with Andreas Haldi, the newly appointed Chief Marketing Officer for CYNORA GmbH which develops blue OLED emitters based on thermally activated delayed fluorescent (TADF) technology. Haldi has worked with OLEDs on three continents. A native of Switzerland, he earned his M.S. degree from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich, then wrote his Master’s thesis at the Optical Sciences Center at the University of Arizona before going on to earn his Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology. Haldi began his professional life with OLED developer Novaled in Dresden, Germany, eventually moving to Seoul to open a Korea-based office for Novaled. Last August, he joined CYNORA to lead promotion and sales activities. CYNORA was founded in 2008 and is based in Bruchsal, Germany.
Conducted by Jenny Donelan
ID: Tell us a little about CYNORA.
AH: For the last 5 years, CYNORA has focused on developing thermally activated
delayed fluorescent (TADF) blue emitters. While we were initially focused on materials for printed OLEDs, we decided in
2015 to shift our focus to materials that can be used in today´s OLED production methods, which are based on vacuum evaporation. Luckily for us, the technology remains the same, which means that we can still make use of the know-how we accumulated previously.
CYNORA is a materials developer, meaning our company will remain fabless while we focus our efforts on R&D and marketing. We plan to use subcontracting to produce the first large amounts of material for our customers, drawing on existing chemical expertise – within Europe. OLED display manufacturing itself is done exclusively in Asia.
Right now, I would say 80% of our activities are based in R&D, but we are currently intensifying our marketing and sales activities since we expect to have a product for sale by the end of 2017. We are a privately held company and have been growing strongly during the last year (doubling the number of employees). We have about 60 right now and are on target to have around 70 by the end of 2016.
ID: What is an emitter, and what is its relationship to an OLED?
AH: An AMOLED is a multilayer structure with about 15 very, very thin layers. The emitter is just one component of the OLED – the part that makes the light. We can decide what color the emitter will be through the chemical design of the material – red, green, blue – but it is also possible to create white OLEDs by combining two or more colors.
In the emitting layer of an OLED, the positive and negative charge carriers recombine and form so-called excitons, which can be converted into light by the
emitter material. The energy of the excitons depends on the stack structure of the OLED and the materials from which it is built. Excitons come in two forms: singlet excitons and triplet excitons, occurring with a ratio of 1:3. For highly efficient OLEDs, both types of excitons have to be converted into light. The TADF concept can convert triplet excitons into singlet excitons after thermal activation, hence the name.
In short, TADF helps us to generate very high efficiencies by making sure that all the electrical charge going into the OLED is converted to light.
ID: What are CYNORA’s emitter materials made of?
AH: The main point is that they are organic materials – mostly carbon and hydrogen atoms. We do not use any heavy metals. Therefore, our materials are not adversely affected by RoHS regulations.
ID: Why are blue emitter materials so important to AMOLED displays and why focus just on blue?
AH: In an AMOLED display, two or three colors are needed, depending on the structure: red + green + blue (RGB) or yellow-green + blue (WOLED + CF). While efficient emitters for red, green, and yellow are already commercially available, there is still no OLED material that efficiently converts electricity into blue light. Current fluorescent blue emitters are not efficient enough, and this has a negative effect on the efficiency of the whole display panel. Therefore, OLED manufactures are looking for stable and efficient blue emitters.
With our TADF technology we can combine long lifetime and high efficiency of our material. Our blue emitters will enable device makers to provide OLED displays with significantly reduced power consumption and higher display resolution.
ID: How does all this relate to commercial devices?
AH: For mobile devices, more efficient blue OLEDs mean longer battery life and higher resolution. Both improvements will significantly increase consumer satisfaction. For TVs, an efficient blue could mean that the manufacturing process can be simplified by using fewer layers.
ID: So, CYNORA is creating a TADF blue emitter material that should enable OLEDs that are more efficient and stable. Are there other approaches to the “blue OLED problem?”
AH: Some materials suppliers are still working on phosphorescent blue emitters. The problem is that a deep blue color is very difficult to achieve with phosphorescent blue materials, and this usually goes hand in hand with short lifetime. Furthermore, a lot of effort has already been put into the development of phosphorescent blue materials but blue phosphorescence has not yet met display makers’ requirements.
ID: How many companies are in this race to create the best blue, and if I were an investor, is there a place for me to bet my money?
AH: Several companies are trying to make a better blue emitter material. However, not many have officially announced their work on high-efficiency blue materials. As of this moment, the only three companies working on high-efficiency blue emitters are CYNORA, a small Japanese company called Kyulux, and Universal Display Corp. (UDC). CYNORA uses the TADF technology while UDC works with phosphorescence.
CYNORA is currently a privately held company, but since we do not have a final product for the market yet, we still need some investment to cover our costs until we do. In fact, now would be a very good time to invest in CYNORA, since we are expecting to have our first products for mass production by the end of 2017, which will increase our company value significantly again!
ID: There has been a lot of research into ink-jet printing of OLED materials. Currently, your products are applied through vacuum deposition. What are your thoughts about printing as a future deposition method?
AH: In our opinion, ink-jet printing of OLEDs is long-term – 2020 or 2021. It sounds very exciting, and printing methods are becoming more and more advanced, but the technology is not advanced enough yet in terms of uniformity and performance. Nevertheless, we are aware of this technology and we will adapt our materials to the printing process once we have a product for the current evaporation process. For that reason, we recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Juhua company in China, which is a cooperation platform formed by some of the biggest display makers in China focusing on printing technologies for OLEDs.
ID: Germany seems to be a hotbed of OLED development, with nearly a dozen companies committed to this research. Why is that?
AH: Germany and the EU have supported OLED development with public funding for many years. Most of these projects require strong collaboration among universities, research institutes, and companies of all sizes, and such collaboration has been particularly successful in Germany.
ID: What is CYNORA’s timeline for its products, and its overall plans for the future?
AH: Our timeline has three major stages: The first is to have production-ready materials for our customers by the end of 2017. The second is to have our material implemented at customer sites – so they can use it in their mass production tools – by the middle of 2018. And the third stage is for our material to be selling and used in the production of panels in 2018 and 2019. Simultaneously, we will start working on green and red emitter materials so that we can offer all colors to our customers.
With our first product introduction by the end of 2017, we expect first revenue by 2018 with a significant increase in 2019. As an OLED material supplier, we are currently in a very good market environment, with some market analysts such as UbiResearch expecting around 70% annual growth just for flexible OLED displays. The boom in this market will give us a lot of opportunities and we expect significant revenues quickly even if we plan conservatively.
ID: What are the biggest challenges your company is facing, and what challenges do you see for the AMOLED field overall?
AH: We currently see a challenge in our internal organization as we grow quickly and move from being an R&D company to more of a marketing company. Luckily, this challenge is manageable since everybody in our company is excited to see the positive development of
our materials and the positive feedback from our customers upon testing them.
In terms of the industry, it is known that the production of OLED panels is significantly more challenging than the production of LCD panels, which has caused quite a delay in OLED production startups for many companies, especially in China.
We believe that AMOLED will change our future. Flexible, foldable, and thin-as-paper displays will make it possible to design devices in a completely new way and to create new application concepts. But as I mentioned above, OLED displays need to be more energy efficient to reduce the size of the battery and to enable flexible and even transparent displays. For this, AMOLED displays need efficient emitters. And that’s our job. •
Jenny Donelan is the Managing Editor of Information Display Magazine. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.