Last week Stanford’s materials scientists revealed working on a possible next-gen ultra-high-end OLED displays that repurposed solar panel technology that could technically feature brighter images with purer colors and more than 10,000 pixels per inch that could support smartphones, television and micro-displays for VR Headsets.
I found this to be very interesting because earlier this month Patently Apple posted a report titled “Apple is working on Thinner next-gen micro-LED Displays with Integrated Solar Cells, Multiple Display Devices and much more.” At the time, integrating solar panels in future displays sounded a little odd as traditional applications suggest solar cells are for adding an energy source.
That was even the original thinking of a Stanford Professor until his research revealed that solar cell technology had applications beyond renewable energy. If anything it showed me just how advanced Apple’s display teams are in working on cutting edge materials for future displays for Apple products with their recent patent. We’ll keep an eye open for future Apple patents discussing solar cell technology in relation to displays.
The Stanford University report noted that by expanding on existing designs for electrodes of ultra-thin solar panels, Stanford researchers and collaborators in Korea have developed a new architecture for OLED – organic light-emitting diode – displays that could enable televisions, smartphones and virtual or augmented reality devices with resolutions of up to 10,000 pixels per inch (PPI). (For comparison, the resolutions of new smartphones are around 400 to 500 PPI.)
Such high-pixel-density displays will be able to provide stunning images with true-to-life detail – something that will be even more important for headset displays designed to sit just centimeters from our faces.
Brongersma, who is a professor of materials science and engineering and senior author of the Oct. 22 Science paper detailing this research stated that “We’ve taken advantage of the fact that, on the nanoscale, light can flow around objects like water. The field of nanoscale photonics keeps bringing new surprises and now we’re starting to impact real technologies. Our designs worked really well for solar cells and now we have a chance to impact next generation displays.”
OLED displays were on the mind of Won-Jae Joo, a Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology (SAIT) scientist, when he visited Stanford from 2016 to 2018. During that time, Joo listened to a presentation by Stanford graduate student Majid Esfandyarpour about an ultrathin solar cell technology he was developing in Brongersma’s lab and realized it had applications beyond renewable energy.
“Professor Brongersma’s research themes were all very academically profound and were like hidden gems for me as an engineer and researcher at Samsung Electronics,” said Joo, who is lead author of the Science paper.
In lab tests, the researchers successfully produced miniature proof-of-concept pixels. Compared with color-filtered white-OLEDs (which are used in OLED televisions) these pixels had a higher color purity and a twofold increase in luminescence efficiency – a measure of how bright the screen is compared to how much energy it uses. They also allow for an ultrahigh pixel density of 10,000 pixels-per-inch.
The next steps for integrating this work into a full-size display is being pursued by Samsung, and Brongersma eagerly awaits the results, hoping to be among the first people to see the meta-OLED display in action. For more on this, read the full Stanford News report.