Scientific research in the area of semiconducting organic materials as the active substance in light emitting diodes (LEDs) has increased immensely during the last four decades. Organic semiconductors was first reported in the 60: s and then the materials where only considered to be merely a scientific curiosity. (They are named organic because they consist primarily of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. ). However when it was recognized in the eighties that many of them are photoconductive under visible light, industrial interests were attracted.

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Many major electronic companies, such as Philips and Pioneer, are today investing a considerable amount of money in the science of organic electronic and optoelectronic devices. The major reason for the big attention to these devices is that they possibly could be much more efficient than todays components when it comes to power consumption and produced light. Common light emitters today, Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) and ordinary light bulbs consume more power than organic diodes do. And the strive to decrease power consumption is always something of matter.

Other reasons for the industrial attention are i. e. that eventually organic full color displays will replace todays liquid crystal displays (LCDs) used in laptop computers and may even one day replace our ordinary CRT-screens. Organic light-emitting devices (OLEDs) operate on the principle of converting electrical energy into light, a phenomenon known as electroluminescence. They exploit the properties of certain organic materials which emit light when an electric current passes through them. In its simplest form, an OLED consists of a layer of this luminescent material sandwiched between two electrodes.

When an electric current is passed between the electrodes, through the organic layer, light is emitted with a color that depends on the particular material used. In order to observe the light emitted by an OLED, at least one of the electrodes must be transparent. When OLEDs are used as pixels in flat panel displays they have some advantages over backlit active-matrix LCD displays – greater viewing angle, lighter weight, and quicker response. Since only the part of the display that is actually lit up consumes power, the most efficient OLEDs available today use less power.

Based on these advantages, OLEDs have been proposed for a wide range of display applications including magnified microdisplays, wearable, head-mounted computers, digital cameras, personal digital assistants, smart pagers, virtual reality games, and mobile phones as well as medical, automotive, and other industrial applications. OLED Versus LED Electronically, OLED is similar to old-fashioned LEDs — put a low voltage across them and they glow. But that’s as far as the similarity goes: instead of being made out of semiconducting metals, OLEDs are made from polymers, plastics or other carbon-containing compounds.

These can be made very cheaply and turned into devices without all the expensive palaver that goes with semiconductor fabrication. Light-emitting diodes, based upon semiconductors such as Gallium Arsenide, Gallium Phosphide, and, most recently, Gallium Nitride, have been around since the late ’50s. They are mostly used as indicator lamps, although they were used in calculators before liquid crystals, and are used in large advertising signs, where they are valued for very long life and high brightness. Such crystalline LEDs are not inexpensive, and it is very difficult to integrate them into small high-resolution displays.

History The first observations of electroluminescence in organic materials were in the early 1950s by A. Bernanose and co-workers at the Nancy-Universite, France. They applied high-voltage alternating current (AC) fields in air to materials such as acridine orange, either deposited on or dissolved in cellulose or cellophane thin films. The proposed mechanism was either direct excitation of the dye molecules or excitation of electrons. In 1960, Martin Pope and co-workers at New York University developed ohmic dark-injecting electrode contacts to organic crystals.

They further described the necessary energetic requirements (work functions) for hole and electron injecting electrode contacts. These contacts are the basis of charge injection in all modern OLED devices. Pope’s group also first observed direct current (DC) electroluminescence under vacuum on a pure single crystal of anthracene and on anthracene crystals doped with tetracene in 1963 using a small area silver electrode at 400V. The proposed mechanism was field-accelerated electron excitation of molecular fluorescence.

Pope’s group reported in 1965 that in the absence of an external electric field, the electroluminescence in anthracene crystals is caused by the recombination of a thermalized electron and hole, and that the conducting level of anthracene is higher in energy than the exciton energy level. Also in 1965, W. Helfrich and W. G. Schneider of the National Research Council in Canada produced double injection recombination electroluminescence for the first time in an anthracene single crystal using hole and electron injecting electrodes, the forerunner of modern double injection devices.

In the same year, Dow Chemical researchers patented a method of preparing electroluminescent cells using high voltage (500–1500 V) AC-driven (100–3000 Hz) electrically-insulated one millimetre thin layers of a melted phosphor consisting of ground anthracene powder, tetracene, and graphite powder. Their proposed mechanism involved electronic excitation at the contacts between the graphite particles and the anthracene molecules. Device performance was limited by the poor electrical conductivity of contemporary organic materials.

However this was overcome by the discovery and development of highly conductive polymers. For more on the history of such materials, see conductive polymers. Electroluminescence from polymer films was first observed by Roger Partridge at the National Physical Laboratory in the United Kingdom. The device consisted of a film of poly(n-vinylcarbazole) up to 2. 2 micrometres thick located between two charge injecting electrodes. The results of the project were patented in 1975 and published in 1983.

The first diode device was reported at Eastman Kodak by Ching W. Tang and Steven Van Slyke in 1987. This device used a novel two-layer structure with separate hole transporting and electron transporting layers such that recombination and light emission occurred in the middle of the organic layer. This resulted in a reduction in operating voltage and improvements in efficiency and led to the current era of OLED research and device production.

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