Moser Baer is mostly known for solar panels and blank DVDs. In October, you can add another film to the pile.
The Indian conglomerate is expected to announce the location for a U.S. factory for producing organic light emitting diodes, or OLEDs, next month. The plant, funded in part by a $4 million grant from the Department of Energy, will be jointly created and owned by Universal Display, one of the leaders in OLEDs. A key figure in the effort is Raj Rageswaren, Moser Baer's CTO. Rageswaren worked at Kodak, an OLED pioneer, for 22 years before coming to Moser Baer to run the photovoltaic group in 2007. Along with being the CTO, he is also the CEO for new businesses at the conglomerate.
OLEDs are thin, flexible sheets of material that emit light. You could cover a ceiling with OLED material and the entire ceiling would light up at the flip of a switch. Clear OLEDs could be placed on windows. During the day, you could see through them. At night, the window would become a light fixture. Another plus for Moser Baer: crossovers with solar manufacturing processes exist.
Architects and designers love the idea of OLEDs because they weigh very little and can be embedded into a variety of flat and curved surfaces. (The bracelet in the photo is an OLED light.) An OLED lamp might be one-tenth the weight of an ordinary lamp and contain one-tenth the amount of the embedded energy because of the lack of support steel and other materials, said Martin Moeck from Osram Opto at the OLED World Summit, which is taking place in San Francisco this week. Last year, Osram released an OLED lamp with light-emitting sheets that resembled wings or feathers.
OLEDs are, hypothetically, one of the most efficient light sources of all, capable of converting all of the electricity pumped into them into lights. Cambrios, the materials company working with CIGS manufacturer Ascent Solar Technologies, is devising clear anodes for OLEDs.
The problems? Uneven light, short life spans, low levels of light and cost. The heat that some OLEDs give off can also reduce their functional life span. While many of the basic scientific problems have been solved, a lack of standards, a lack of standardized manufacturing processes, a lack of factories and other issues means that prices remain high. Sony has flogged an OLED TV for years that measures a measly 14 inches across.
"The challenge isn't performance, but cost," said Janice Mahon, vice president of technology commercialization at Universal Display.
The Moser Baer/Universal Display factory will exist "to test out manufacturing strategies and cost targets," said Mahon.
Progress, nonetheless, continues. Universal Display has created an OLED light fixture fashioned from four 15 cm x 15 cm panels, the same size that will come out of the upcoming factory. The panels emit 58 lumens per watt and the fixture as a whole emits 51 lumens per watt. Individual champion pixels have been produced that crank out 113 lumens per watt. Color temperatures are also migrating toward the warmer range favored by consumers.
A change that will help drop the price in the future will be the increasing size of the basic substrate. Right now, the industry produces OLEDs for cell phone out of generation 3.5-size substrates. Generation 4 substrates will be larger, which means more lights and displays can be popped out of the same sheet. Lights from a generation 4 substrate might generate 1,000 lumens for $50. Lights from larger generation 6 glass might cost $10 to $12, Mahon said.