How OLED WorksThere are a host of detailed guides on the Internet about how OLEDs work, but what it all boils down to is that scientists are taking some of the gains made by LCD and LED technologies now used in the average display, and tweaking them to produce a model that is more versatile, uses less energy, and promises a more diverse next generation of devices.
In some ways, OLED is a little like an LCD: electricity creates light that is filtered through molecules. What’s different about OLED is that instead of being lit by light waves, light is created by electrons running through a "solid state" material. Solid state is a term that means conductive materials are acted on by an electrical charge. But in OLED, it all comes down to the most basic unit of an atom: the electron.
A layer of material called a cathode basically "injects" electrons into the organic layers, where they "fill holes" and react to materials in ways that give off light as a byproduct. Then, on the other side, a layer called an anode receives the electrons again.
So one way to think about this, for those who've never really studied solid state, LCDs or LEDs, is that the power isn’t running horizontally across a display interface: it’s running through it from top to bottom, on a very short trip that ends up creating bursts of light in the pixels that make up the display.
InnovationWhat's really making tech geeks dream of tomorrow’s rollable, bendable, 3-D devices is OLED technology's potential flexiblity. Unlike earlier technologies, with OLED it's possible to twist these material elements in three dimensions. As a result, engineers are coming up with ways to put a display device into a thin, flexible film, even something that can be worn on the skin. Repair technicians are thinking about how a flexible display can make mobile phone and tablet repair a lot easier. And we’re getting ready, in general, for a screen that’s not as delicate, fragile or sensitive as the old, conventional models.
When you step back and think about it, we’ve come an amazingly long way from the color TVs and early computer monitors of the 1980s, with each decade giving us new, brighter, more vibrant displays. But OLED technology has the potential to explode all of our old ideas about a screen being "central" the way that a TV or cinema screen always was. With OLED, screens are more likely to be come portable, wearable and even disposable.