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GE Demos Roll-to-Roll OLEDs

General Electric‘s GE Global Research arm has announced the first successful demonstration of OLED lighting devices manufactured using a newspaper-like roll-to-roll manufacturing process. The development should be a major step towards getting OLED lighting devices into the mass market, since the process will dramatically lower costs to produce OLEDs and other organic electronics. The demonstration results from a research collaboration between GE Global Energy, Energy Conversion Devices, Inc., and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), taking more than four years and $13 million.

“Researchers have long dreamed of making OLEDs using a newspaper-printing like roll-to-roll process,” said the manager of GE’s Advanced Technology Program in Organic Electronics, Anil Duggal. “Now we’ve shown that it is possible. Commercial applications in lighting require low manufacturing costs, and this demonstration is a major milestone on our way to developing low cost OLED lighting devices.”

Organic LED (OLED) lighting devices work by sandwiching a thin layer of organic materials between two electrodes; the system illuminates when the electrodes are charged. OLED lighting sources use considerably less power and involve fewer toxic materials and processes during their manufacture…however, these aren’t the only features that appeal to architects, designers, and anyone else involved with lights: mass-produced OLED panels will also find their way into flexible electronic paper display and large portable TV screens—and no doubt into consumer product packaging. (If you think store shelves are garish now, just wait until the boxes emit light and feature motion graphics.)

The large commercial gear needed to mass product roll-to-roll OLED components doesn’t currently exist; GE and its partners plan to work on designs that can bring the technology into mass production, with the goal of introducing OLED lighting products by 2010.