March 30, 2012, 12:27 PM —
The size, battery life, portability and shape of laptops, smartphones and other digital devices have all changed dramatically during the past decade, but only to the limits of a single component that has refused to shrink or accommodate any shape other than the basic rectangle – the viewing screen.
LEDs make laptop and smartphone screens smaller, sharper and thinner. Unless you're willing to remove the screen when you're not using it or downsize to a tiny one, however, there's no way to shrink portable computing devices to sizes smaller than that of their own screens.
Researchers at the University of Toronto may have cracked that problem – or at least made a big leap toward eliminating it – with a "happy accident" in the lab that might make organic LEDs much more practical as displays that are flexible enough to bend into non-linear shapes, or even fold in half without cracking.
OLEDs are "organic" because they use organic compounds containing oxygen, carbon, hydrogen and nitrogen to make dyes that emit light in different colors when they're hit with electricity.
OLEDs use less power than LEDs, tend to be brighter, have a wider viewing range than most LEDs, generate their own light (no need for backlighting) and can be layered on thin plastic substrates rather than the glass plates LEDs require.
Univ. Toronto/Mark Neil Balson