USDC-Funded R&D at National Starch, GE Plastics Could Speed Commercialization of OLEDs by Increasing Lifetimes
SAN JOSE, Calif. – Two announcements in June regarding breakthroughs in coatings and sealants for organic light-emitting-diode (OLED) displays could pave the way to wider commercial adoption of the technology by increasing the devices' lifetimes. Last month, both GE Plastics (www.geplastics.com) and National Starch and Chemical Co. (NSC) (www.nationalstarch.com) announced the results of research conducted with funding from the United States Display Consortium (USDC) (www.usdc.org) to resolve OLEDs' ongoing issues with moisture and oxygen damage.
The lifetime of OLED devices has long suffered because, if the materials used come into contact with water vapor and/or oxygen, they are quickly rendered inoperable.
"This problem must be overcome before OLEDs can experience widespread use in high-performance long-lifetime applications such as TVs and computer monitors," explained Bob Pinnel, USDC's chief technology officer.
NSC's solution to the moisture damage issue – OLED sealing adhesives – was developed with a $1.1 million investment from the USDC, which requires a 50% cost share from all development partners. The resulting radiation-curable barrier-sealing adhesive is used to join together the two glass or plastic layers of an OLED panel, enabling a product with what USDC described as industry-leading moisture-barrier properties, excellent stability under accelerated aging conditions, no need for thermal annealing after ultraviolet (UV) curing, low out-gassing during and after UV curing, and excellent adhesive strength. NSC's sealants and packaging adhesives have already resulted in several com-mercial products under the Eccoseal™ brand name with more products on the way in 2006 and 2007.
On June 6, at SID 2006 in San Francisco, GE announced its own solution to OLED moisture damage with the creation of a flexible plastic substrate system using a polycarbonate film combined with a transparent, ultra-high-barrier coating. GE developed the system with $1 million in internal funding and an additional $1 million from USDC. The system uses GE's transparent Lexan™ film and an organic/inorganic barrier coating, preventing degradation of the device from oxygen, moisture, chemicals, and electrical conductivity while promoting light transmission, according to a statement from the company.
"The opportunity to use a flexible substrate with an ultra-high barrier coating allows for fundamentally new concepts (for OLEDs) to be delivered," said Todd Hoff, GE Plastics' Marketing Director for New Markets. "Everything from rugged-type displays to fully flexible devices can be imagined by both GE and also our potential customers."
USDC currently has no further plans to invest in this area, according to Pinnel.
"USDC is quite satisfied with the efforts of all the companies that have been supported to undertake R&D projects on these topics," Pinnel said. "Results have met most desired performance targets. Commercial products are ready for market from the National Starch program, and they exhibit properties superior to any commercially available alternatives."
— Jessica Quandt
Unaxis Optical, Novalux Enter Funding, Joint Development Agreements for Laser Technology
BALZERS, Lichtenstein and SUNNYVALE, Calif. – Unaxis Optics (www.optics.unaxis.com) in mid-June acquired a substantial chunk of laser technology company Novalux Inc. (www.novalux.com), and signed a joint development and licensing agreement for the commercialization of the Novalux Extended Cavity Surface Emitting Laser (NECSEL) technology.
Novalux announced that it has secured an additional $21.7 million in financing for further development of the NECSEL technology, the majority of which came from Unaxis. Novalux Vice President of Marketing Greg Niven said that due to this investment, Unaxis now controls a "significant stake" in the company, including a seat on its board. Other companies that contributed to the $21.7 million included Crescendo Venture, Morgan Stanley Venture Partners, Dynafund Ventures and Tredegar Corp.
According to the agreement, Novalux will license its RGB laser reference design to Unaxis and will supply the company with NECSEL semiconductor chips. From there, Unaxis will mass-produce and distribute RGB laser modules to the projection-display supply chain.
NECSEL laser technology, which Novalux claims enables images with truer colors, greater brilliancy, and higher reliability while eliminating projector start-up time, is intended for use in rear-projection TV (RPTV), front projectors, and pocket- and pico-projection. Novalux also reports its NECSEL technology cuts costs by reducing the number of required components for volume production.
"Our joint agreement will allow NECSEL laser technology to permeate projection-display applications via RPTVs and front projectors and will open new markets such as pico-projection," Novalux Chairman and CEO Jean-Michel Pelaprat said in a company statement. "NECSEL sources are well suited for these next-generation projection devices—they're longer-life and lower-cost than competing light sources and they'll provide consumers with an unmatched viewing experience."
— Jessica Quandt
National Semiconductor Licenses PPDS Technology for "Cinema-Quality" LCD Viewing
SAN FRANCISCO – National Semiconductor (www.national.com) announced in early June that it has licensed its cost-cutting point-to-point differential signaling (PPDS) technology to Himax Technologies, Inc. (www.himax.com.tw), MagnaChip Semiconductor Ltd. (www.magnachip.com) and STMicroelectronics (www.st.com) for the development of column drivers for liquid-crystal-display (LCD) TVs, and has reached an agreement with Chi Mei Optoelectronics (CMO) (www.cmo.com.tw) for that company to use PPDS in its upcoming LCD-TV modules.
National Semiconductor's PPDS architecture combines a physical layer interface with high-level protocol to create an efficient interface that reduces overall size, according to a company press release. It simplifies the display interconnect to improve display performance, enables smaller bezels, and delivers more than 1 billion colors on panels up to 90 in. in high resolution, according to the statement.
"National's PPDS technology enables CMO to deliver higher color depth, cinema-quality motion video, and high resolution to the consumer in a simple, cost-effective manner," CMO LCD Division Director Wen-Tsung Lin said in a statement National Semiconductor issued at SID 2006 in San Francisco. "These features are critical to the success of large LCD TVs."
In addition to enhancing the end-user's viewing experience, PPDS will actually save manufacturers money, according to Jon Kiachian, marketing director for the Flat Panel Displays Group at National Semiconductor.
"The LCD-television manufacturers desperately want to support 10-bit color, but to date, 10-bit panels have been cost-prohibitive. National's PPDS architecture will enable them to sell 10-bit televisions utilizing 10-bit panels," Kiachian explained.
PPDS architecture enables column-driver (CD) manufacturers to sell 10-bit column drives at or below the price of 8-bit CDs, Kiachian added. It also allows for the elimination of a set of row drivers and the associated PCB and components that surround them, further cutting costs.
While National envisions PPDS for eventual use in LCD TVs, monitors, and notebook computers, major manufacturers' current plans only extend to television panels, Kiachian said. Still, National is expecting PPDS to soon become the standard across the LCD industry.
"All of the major panel vendors have evaluated and many have publicly demonstrated panels featuring PPDS architecture," Kiachian said. "You can expect to see at least two additional panel vendors announcing that they plan on using the PPDS architecture by the end of this year. You will also see additional CD and TCON manufacturers announce that they have licensed the right to manufacture, design, and sell products featuring National's PPDS architecture."
Epson Develops World's Highest-Resolution E-Paper Display on Plastic Substrate
TOKYO – Seiko Epson Corp. (www.epson.co.jp) presented a paper at SID 2006 in June that announced the development of what it claimed is the world's highest-resolution – 400 ppi – electronic-paper display on a plastic substrate. Company representatives said the A6-sized paper – which measures 7.1 in. on the diagonal –may pave the way for increasing E-paper screen sizes.
Epson developed the E-paper display using its surface-free technology by laser ablation/annealing (SUFTLA) method. The resulting display both dwarfs its previous 2-in. E-paper screens and doubles its 200-ppi resolution. According to the paper given at SID 2006, the entire panel circuitry for the 7.1 in., Quad-XGA active-matrix electrophoretic display (AM-EPD), including 7.3 million transistors, was successfully transferred onto a plastic substrate without damage or serious defects and "observed good operation of the flexible AM-EPD panel."
"There was a big technical breakthrough to increase the screen size," said Epson Spokes-person Jasper Credland, referring to the improved process conditions and fabrication tools in the SUFTLA technology noted in the paper that enabled the dramatic size increase. "Unfortunately, since this product development is still at a very sensitive stage, it isn't possible to give more precise detail."
The AM-EPD's Quad-XGA 400-ppi resolution is the highest in the world, meaning even the smallest letters on a portable display are fully visible, and its 10:1 contrast ratio means images have the same visibility as those printed on paper, the company said in a statement. The A6-sized E-paper also consumes very little power, with a maximum drive voltage of 6 V.
Epson has been working on E-paper since 1999, according to Credland. The company's E-paper displays are already in use in a flexible, high-contrast watch from the Seiko Watch Corp. Credland did not reveal any further plans for future commercialization.
LG.Philips LCD will build a new liquid-crystal-display (LCD) module plant in Guangzhou, China, according to a June Reuters report. The company has not revealed the size of the investment in the new facility, nor has it released a timeline.
LG.Philips LCD announced on June 28 it had become the first TFT-LCD panel manufacturer to be internationally recognized as a Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) testing laboratory by the European Union's German accreditation organization, EU TUV SUD. This accreditation means RoHS testing performed at LG.Philips LCD's in-house lab will have the same credibility as tests performed by official authorized test centers.
Toppan Photomasks Inc. will expand its Shanghai plant to increase capacity, the company announced in mid July. The expansion will also include added clean room space and enhanced process, inspection and repair capabilities. This is the fourth expansion in the plant's 10-year history.
Syntax-Brillian Corp. has announced a partnership with Brazilian family-owned conglomerate Group Senna to promote the HDTV manufacturer's Olevia LCD TVs in Brazil and the rest of Latin America. The companies have formed a joint venture called "Olevia Senna do Brasil" that will manufacture, market and support Olevia LCD TVs sized 20-in. and larger customized for the new markets.
JSR Corp. held a completion ceremony on July 7 for its new LCD materials production plant in the Central Taiwan Science Industrial Park, Yunlin Base, Taiwan. The ´3 billion plant will produce color pigment dispersed resists used in liquid-crystal displays (LCDs). Construction on the plant was completed in February, with full-fledged commercial production beginning in July. JSR is considering the promotion of locally based production for other LCD materials as well as color pigment dispersed resists and is aiming to expand its product range, according to a company statement.
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