Can OLED Technology Compete with QD Displays?
Self-emissive lighting systems have reshaped the consumer display sector over the last 13 years. High-end liquid crystal displays (LCDs) based on standard light-emitting diodes (LED) retain a competitive edge in today’s electronics markets. However, innovative approaches to quantum dot (QD) enhanced LED panels have eclipsed standard LCDs in virtually every respect barring cost. The only alternative that can theoretically compete with QD displays in terms of efficiency, performance, and versatility is organic light-emitting diode (OLED) technology.
An OLED panel uses a thin film of carbon-based material sandwiched between two electrodes, which generates light when a voltage is applied. Quantum dots are built into display panels in a very different way. While OLED technology completely eschews an additional light source, QD displays still require LEDs to excite their characteristic nanocrystals. This is a key difference when comparing the two technologies from a design and energy efficiency standpoint.
At Avantama, we have written extensively on the differences between QD and OLED technology, forecasting a change in the display dynamic as so-called QLED TVs come into maturity. In this blog post, we will take another look at those differences to ask if OLEDs can continue to compete with emerging QD displays.
Market Perspective: Cost, Design & Functionalization
OLED panels are typically engineered via vacuum processing, whereby the organic material is evaporated from a powder at low pressure and subsequently condenses as a thin film coating onto an anodic substrate. A secondary emissive layer is deposited onto the first film before a cathode is applied to complete the basic thin film structure of the OLED array.
QD displays are increasingly manufactured via similar methods where a printer will deposit a uniform film of dispersed nanoparticles onto a substrate. Multiple sequential layers can be further deposited if required. Film-type QD displays integrate this printed structure into an LCD matrix, using a backlight of white or blue LEDs to excite nanocrystals in the film and causing them to fluoresce their respective colors.
Each of these manufacturing techniques has its challenges, but QD displays have the benefit of relying on the comparative maturity of LCD manufacturing. OLED manufacturing has been beleaguered by high production failure rates and scalability issues, which poses significant cost challenges due to relatively low manufacturing throughput and generally high production costs. This is one of the primary reasons that OLED panels are predominantly found in smaller displays like cell phones where they set the benchmark for performance.
However, QD displays also have inherent manufacturing challenges that must be overcome before they could truly compete with OLEDs in their established markets. Conventional quantum dots typically exhibit poor thermal stability, which can leave them vulnerable to degradation in close proximity to an LED backlight due to the unavoidable emission of heat. These stability issues must be overcome to facilitate the commercial-scale production of next-generation QD display technologies.
It is difficult to predict if either display technology will emerge as an out-and-out superior, with manufacturers increasingly exploring novel approaches to future devices. Hybridized QD-OLED technology has been claimed as a possible solution to the manufacturing challenges facing both, but this is firmly in a theoretical/exploratory phase of development. Currently, OLEDs, QLEDs, and even traditional LCDs look set to continue competing in their respective areas of the display market.
OLED Technologies from Avantama
At Avantama, we specialize in solution-processed OLED technologies for proprietary and commercial-scale production levels. With unsurpassed experience in functional nanomaterials for electronic printing, we can provide tailormade solutions for your OLED production line. Contact a member of the Avantama team today with any questions.