science & technology

Towards a better screen

SP 2016-08-11 11:40:44pm

Harvard University researchers have designed more than 1,000 new blue-light emitting molecules for organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) that could dramatically improve displays for televisions, phones, tablets and more.

OLED screens use organic molecules that emit light when an electric current is applied. Unlike ubiquitous liquid crystal displays (LCDs), OLED screens don't require a backlight, meaning the display can be as thin and flexible as a sheet of plastic. Individual pixels can be switched on or entirely off, dramatically improving the screen's color contrast and energy consumption. OLEDs are already replacing LCDs in high-end consumer devices but a lack of stable and efficient blue materials has made them less competitive in large displays such as televisions.

The interdisciplinary team of Harvard researchers, in collaboration with MIT and Samsung, developed a large-scale, computer-driven screening process, called the Molecular Space Shuttle, that incorporates theoretical and experimental chemistry, machine learning and cheminformatics to quickly identify new OLED molecules that perform as well as, or better than, industry standards.

"People once believed that this family of organic light-emitting molecules was restricted to a small region of molecular space," said Alán Aspuru-Guzik, Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, who led the research. "But by developing a sophisticated molecular builder, using state-of-the art machine learning, and drawing on the expertise of experimentalists, we discovered a large set of high-performing blue OLED materials."

The research is described in the current issue of Nature Materials.

The biggest challenge in manufacturing affordable OLEDs is emission of the color blue.

Like LCDs, OLEDs rely on green, red and blue subpixels to produce every color on screen. But it has been difficult to find organic molecules that efficiently emit blue light. To improve efficiency, OLED producers have created organometallic molecules with expensive transition metals like iridium to enhance the molecule through phosphorescence. This solution is expensive and it has yet to achieve a stable blue color.

Aspuru-Guzik and his team sought to replace these organometallic systems with entirely organic molecules.

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The above post is reprinted from materials provided by Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. The original item was written by Leah Burrows. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.