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(Organic Light Emitting Device, Organic Light Emitting Diode) A display technology that offers bright, colorful images with a wide viewing angle, low power, high contrast ratio and fast response time for sports and action movies. The OLED technology differs greatly from the screens in plasma and LCD/LED TVs. However, OLED more resembles plasma because the colors are intrinsically generated (see LCD vs. plasma).

Because OLEDs do not require backlights, the screens can be ultra thin. OLEDs also have great potential for general lighting (see WOLED).

Passive and Active OLEDs
Passive matrix OLEDs appeared in cellphones and MP3 players in the 1990s, and active matrix OLEDs followed in 2003. Four years later, Sony introduced the first active matrix OLED TV, but with only an 11" screen. However, significant progress was made in the next five years, and LG and Samsung debuted 55" OLED TVs in 2012.

Extremely Versatile
OLEDs can be transparent, enabling them to function in heads-up displays and as window shades that react to sunlight. OLED's color, speed, thinness, transparency and flexibility make it the display technology of the 21st century. See PHOLED, AMOLED, TOLED, OLED lighting and LED.

First OLED TV - 11-Inch Screen
In 2007, Sony's XEL-1 captivated audiences with its intense colors, but few were sold due to its small 11" screen and whopping USD $2499 price tag. The screen was ultra thin by encasing it apart from the TV tuner. (Image courtesy of Sony Corporation.)

From 11 to 77 Inches
A huge difference in seven years. At CES 2014, several large-screen OLED HDTVs were unveiled, such as this curved 77" 4K TV from LG. A curved screen reduces ambient light reflections. See 4K TV.

OLEDs Are Monolithic Devices
OLED screens consist of a series of organic layers between two electrical contacts (electrodes). Like LEDs, when electrons and holes combine in the organic layer, they emit photons. Unlike LCDs, which have separate layers, each OLED layer is deposited on the other, creating a monolithic unit. Commonly constructed on glass, OLEDs can also be fabricated on plastic and flexible films, such as the Flexible OLED (FOLED) from Universal Display Corporation.

OLED Cross Section (Not to Scale)
The cathode layer can be reflective (OLED) or transparent (TOLED). OLEDs are made using small-molecule organic LEDs (SM-OLEDs) or less-expensive, lower-voltage and longer-lasting large-molecule polymer LEDs (PLEDs). For more details, see PHOLED. (Illustration courtesy of Universal Display Corporation, www.universaldisplay.com)

A Smartphone in Your Pen?
Flexible OLED screens like this are expected within a few years. (Image courtesy of Universal Display Corporation, www.universaldisplay.com)
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