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Large-area organic
light-emitting diode technology
Joerg Amelung
The technology of solid-state lighting and flat panel displays can benefit
from advances in organic layer deposition and homogeneous light
Displays based on organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs ) have
benefited from significant advances that have now made them
commercially available. Due to the high efficiency of the technology, OLED-based lighting is expected to capture a promising market share. OLEDs are flat light sources that emit diffuse
light from a potentially large active area. They do not need light
distribution elements, which translates into significant cost benefits in the production of lighting panels. In contrast, inorganic
light-emitting diodes are point sources that do require light distribution components for flat panel lighting. Another advantage
of OLEDs is that, because they produce light via relatively low
peak brightness over a large area, they do not build up heat in
one spot, so do not need cooling elements.
A typical OLED consists of stacks of organic layers of
100nm thickness inserted between a cathode and an anode.
Usually, the substrate is glass, coated with a transparent conductive oxide as anode, followed by the organic stack and the
inorganic cathode (see Figure 1).
OLED technology uses materials from two different groups.
The first includes materials with low molecular weight
called small-molecule (SM) OLEDs, originally developed by
the Ching Tang group at the Kodak Laboratories in 1987.
The deposition of SM-OLEDs is based on vacuum thermal evaporation. The other group of materials includes
polymer-based OLEDs consisting of long polymer organic
chains deposited by spin-cast or ink-jet methods. SM-OLEDs
achieve higher efficiencies and currently dominate OLED
One of the key advantages of OLED technology is the chemical variability of the organic luminescence, allowing production of virtually any color, including white, by two or three red,
green, and blue layers. Other advantages include the use of thinfilm technology, allowing large area and low-cost deposition,

Figure 1. Schematic drawing of an organic light-emitting diode. Al:

Aluminium. ITO: Indium tin oxide.
and the possibility of using thin and even flexible substrates to
realize a novel class of lighting and display solutions not achievable with other technologies.
The fabrication of large-emission-area OLEDs for lighting at a
reasonable cost is essential for the successful penetration of large
markets. Achieving this goal however, requires OLED fabrication improvements. The electrical doping of the charge transport
layers of these devices represents an important step in this direction. The organic materials used in OLEDs commonly have very
low conductivities resulting in high device voltages. The problem has been addressed by the simultaneous evaporation of two
materials with higher conductivities as organic layers, shown
to significantly decrease the operating voltage.1, 2 Devices with
very high power efficiency have also been realized by combining electrical doping with highly efficient emitter systems.36 A
typical architecture for such devices is p-i-n stacking, a proprietary technology of Novaled AG.
Besides producing highly-efficient white OLED devices, fabrication technology improvements are also essential to realize functional OLED lighting tiles. One important requirement
is the achievement of an homogenous light output. Based on
the limiting conductivity of indium tin oxide (ITO), typically
10ohm/square, voltage drops can be related to lighting inhomogeneities. Improved current distributions therefore require
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10.1117/2.1200804.1104 Page 2/2

Author Information
Joerg Amelung
Fraunhofer Institute for Photonic Microsystems
Dresden, Germany

Figure 2. Metal support line integration reduces overall resistance and

improves evenness of the light output.

Joerg Amelung is responsible for the business unit of organic

materials and systems at the Fraunhofer Institute for Photonic
Microsystems. He is also one of the founders of spin-off Novaled
AG, Dresden.
1. M. Pfeiffer, K. Leo, X. Zhou, J. S. Huang, M. Hofmann, A. Werner, and J.
Blochwitz-Nimoth, Doped organic semiconductors: physics and application in light emitting diodes, Org. Electron. 4 (2-3), pp. 89103, 2003.
2. J. Kido and T. Matsumoto, Bright organic electroluminescent devices having a metaldoped electron-injecting layer, Appl. Phys. Lett. 73 (20), pp. 28662868, 1998.
3. M. Pfeiffer, S. Forrest, K. Leo, and M. E. Thompson, Electrophosphorescent p-i-n Organic Light-Emitting Devices for Very-High-Efficiency Flat-Panel Displays, Adv. Mater.
14 (22), pp. 16331636, 2002.
4. C. Adachi, M. A. Baldo, S. R. Forrest, and M. E. Thompson, High-efficiency organic
electrophosphorescent devices with tris(2-phenylpyridine)iridium doped into electrontransporting materials, Appl. Phys. Lett. 77 (6), pp. 904906, 2000.
5. J. Birnstock, M. Hofmann, S. Murano, M. Vehse, J. Blochwitz-Nimoth, Q. Huang,
G. F. He, M. Pfeiffer, and K. Leo, Novel OLEDs for full color displays with highest power
efficiencies and long lifetime, SID Symp. Digest Tech. Papers 36 (1), pp. 4043, 2005.
6. P. Wellmann, M. Hofmann, O. Zeika, A. Werner, J. Birnstock, R. Meerheim, G.
He, K. Walzer, M. Pfeiffer, and K. Leo, High-efficiency p-i-n organic light-emitting
diodes with long lifetime, J. Soc. Inf. Disp. 13 (5), pp. 393397, 2005.

Figure 3. Large area OLED module. Dimensions: 8020cm2 . Light

output: 250lumen.

development to achieve homogeneous large area lighting. One

possibility is to use metal support lines, which can lower the effective ITO resistance to less than 1ohm/square (see Figure 2). Of
course, such metal lines also reduce the effective lighting area,
but they can fortunately be limited to a maximum of 1020% of
the lighting area.
The combination of highly efficient OLEDs and improved
lighting integration technology recently allowed the fabrication
of the largest SM-OLED lighting module ever reported, with dimensions of 8020cm2 , subdivided in four panels. The OLED
active area is 1100cm2 , and the light output of 250lumen could
be improved up to 500lumen in future modules (see Figure 3).
Other production aspects, such as fabrication yield and costs,
should also be addressed to achieve a large market penetration.
However, the advances summarized above represent important
solutions to achieve promising new lighting technology for the
c 2008 SPIE