When flat TV screens finally moved from science fiction to reality they came in waves, first the Liquid Crystal Display technology (LCD) then there was plasma, then Surface-conduction Electron-emitter (SED). Now these are being joined by a fourth flat screen technology that has the potential of becoming that roll-up, wallpaper screen promised by fiction. Move over Captain Kirk, Tulsa’s Video Revolution is the first in the city to offer the OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) television that you can purchase from their showroom at 7030 South Lewis.
Basically, OLED is a thin film with an organic compound. OLEDs don’t need a back light and require far less power than traditional LEDs and offer a million to one contrast ratio (black is deep black and white is brilliant white).
Sony started using LEDs in very large screen TV monitors for stadiums, auditoriums and concert halls, but they were never able to make an LED-based video display that was practical for home use because of the size and power requirements of the technology. It took a passive system, the LCD, to make the breakthrough to home and office electronics with a low-power technology. LCD, unfortunately, doesn’t produce any light itself, but merely controls the amount of light that actually reaches our eyes from a supplied light source located behind the screen. The need for a flat, uniformly bright back-light over the entire screen area has made the low-power characteristics of the LCD pointless as the backlight accounts for most of the power budget which is why your digital camera batteries go flat so quickly when you use the LCD viewfinder.
What was needed was a technology producible as a continuous film containing all three primary additive colors (Red, Green, Blue) in a matrix containing as many pixels as needed. OLED made the grade with organic thin films between two transparent electrodes. An electric current causes these films to produce a bright light. By using semiconductor technology, each pixel can be addressed individually thus controlling the patterns of light and color which combine to form a picture.
The organic process used in OLED is called electrophosphorescence and is a biological phenomenon that has been noted and wondered at for eons. Fireflies, plankton, and many sea creatures all possess this characteristic naturally. But it’s only in the last few years that researchers have been able to synthesize nature.
These OLED panels are constructed of several layers of doped fluorocarbon polymers, the result is a system which is very thin – usually less than 0.5 thousandths of a millimeter thick. OLEDs produce self-luminous displays that do not require backlighting and can operate at very low current of 2-10 volts. The thin displays can be made flexible, and have a wide viewing angle of up to 170 degrees.
founder Ron Witmer says, “None have sold yet, but everyone that comes into the store sees it because it is right on the front counter next to the cash register. Comments from customers that see OLED for the first time range from amazed to awestruck. This is a technology that will overwhelm the market and it’s always fun to be a part of something this good this new.”
The current model available at Video Revolution is barley three millimeters thin with an eleven inch screen that retails at $2,500. Sony is working on bigger sizes and at the current price per inch a 50” would be right around $12,500, but as production methods gain from experience with OLED the price should fall – not quickly, but eventually.
Sony’s introduction of OLED consumer technology at CES-2008 is available in both text and video, click here for more
Sony is also working on using the same OLED technology for a wearable and bendable plastic. When that happens, Witmer said, “You could have your shirt and watch it too.”