They may sound similiar, but OLED and LED are two remarkably different technologies. The difference is in the name.
OLED stands for organic light-emitting diode, where the term "organic" refers to the presence of organic carbon-based molecules in the emissive (light-emitting) layer. This is unlike LEDs, which use an "inorganic" semiconductor.
In a single pixel of OLED the organic layer is sandwiched between two conductors, an anode and cathode. Typically, one or both of these conductors are transparent. When electricity is applied, the organic layer emits light.
OLED is being hyped as the next generation of digitial display technology, offering numerous advantages over both LCD and Plasma screen technologies.
Most of the thickness of an LCD television comes from the fact that it requires a backlight. Unlike LCD, OLED screens are able to produce their own light and therefore do not rely on a backlight of any kind. This allows manufacturers to make OLED displays to very thin specifications.
Screens made using OLED pixels offer a greatly improved viewing angle and much better image quality. This is because the light output is managed by each individual pixel, allowing for extremely localized dimming and greater colour accuracy.
OLED pixels can be turned on and off more rapidly than LCD displays allowing for a faster refresh rate. In fact, the refresh rate of an OLED display is about 1,000 times faster than an LCD, greatly reducing blur.
Due to their size, it is also possible to make flexible OLED panels. This would allow OLED screens to be installed on gradiented surfaces such as pillars. It would also make for far greater portability as an OLED screen could potentially be rolled up for easier transportation.
As OLEDs do not require a backlight, they also use far less energy than LCD screens, making them more beneficial for the environment.
Sadly, there are still some disadvantages associated with OLED technology. The main is cost. OLED screens are still expensive to manufacture, but, with the development of novel "printing" techniques, it may become possible to produce OLED screens easily and affordably. General Electric (GE) has already showcased a roll-to-roll printing technique similar to the way newspapers are printed.
At the moment OLED have a fairly limited light output, but, once improved, they may have plenty to offer to the domestic and commercial lighting market as well. So, LED Lights better watch their backs, there's a new kid on the block!
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