Huge po­ten­tial for OLEDs in au­to­mo­tive in­dus­try

Auto components India - - COVER STORY -

In re­cent years, a num­ber of in­dus­tries have started us­ing Or­ganic Light-Emit­ting Diodes (OLEDs) in di­verse ways. The au­to­mo­tive in­dus­try, in par­tic­u­lar, has seen a huge po­ten­tial in OLEDs. OLEDs can be used as sig­nal lights, tail­lights, and for in­te­rior light­ing, pro­vid­ing a ho­mo­ge­neous light sur­face that is both en­ergy ef­fi­cient and suf­fi­ciently rugged. The auto in­dus­try typ­i­cally adopts tech­nol­ogy in its high-end ve­hi­cles be­fore it fil­ters down to the masses. Although lead times have con­tin­ued to shrink within the in­dus­try, they are still some­what sub­stan­tial.

OLED tech­nol­ogy may pro­vide suf­fi­cient cost, safety, and style ben­e­fits for ear­lier au­to­mo­tive adop­tion. OLED pan­els pro­vide com­fort, take up less trunk space, and are more vis­i­ble to cars and pedes­tri­ans when com­pared to their com­pe­ti­tion, so they add safety. We will most likely see such man­u­fac­tur­ers as BMW, Audi, and Volk­swa­gen, which have al­ready show­cased pos­si­bil­i­ties for OLED use, adopt within the next few years.

Dif­fi­cul­ties of us­ing OLED in ve­hi­cles

Ma­jor hur­dles OLEDs have to cross when in use in au­to­mo­biles are they have to withstand hu­mid­ity, heat, cold, UV ra­di­a­tion, and con­stant vi­bra­tion. All these can re­duce the life span of OLEDs dras­ti­cally. Audi claims to have solved this prob­lem by en­cap­su­lat­ing their dis­plays her­met­i­cally, which they claim will make the dis­plays as sta­ble as LEDs.

Uni­form il­lu­mi­na­tion

Reg­u­lar LEDs act as point sources of light, and it re­quires sub­stan­tial de­vel­op­ment work for gen­er­at­ing an even light from them. On the other hand, OLEDs are evenly ra­di­at­ing sources of light, and they nat­u­rally pro­duce a uni­form il­lu­mi­na­tion. More­over, their thick­ness is only about a mil­lime­ter, which makes OLEDs more suit­able for au­to­mo­tive de­sign.

De­sign­ers find OLED ap­pear­ance is high qual­ity, both when off and on. This is be­cause it has a sim­ple and clean sur­face. As de­sign is an im­por­tant as­pect of the au­to­mo­tive in­dus­try, it makes OLEDs ideal for such use. Most au­to­mo­bile own­ers ex­pect a cer­tain life­style from their ve­hi­cles, apart from its func­tional use of trans­porta­tion from point A to point B.

How­ever, for use as turn sig­nals and brake lights, the light in­ten­sity from OLEDs is not ad­e­quate, and will have to be in­creased. The au­to­mo­tive in­dus­try is also work­ing on us­ing flex­i­ble OLEDs. At pre­sent many are us­ing glass­based OLEDs, but these are rigid, and us­ing plas­tic foil sub­strates as the base for OLED is open­ing up a whole new world of op­por­tu­ni­ties for the de­sign­ers.

Audi is ex­pect­ing LOPEC will open up a huge band­width of busi­ness and re­search in­sti­tutes for them. They ex­pect to hold dis­cus­sions with spe­cial­ists us­ing this breadth of ac­tiv­ity, and to meet other OLED man­u­fac­tur­ers and ma­te­ri­als de­vel­op­ers.

What the fu­ture holds

In about a decade from now, the world will be wit­ness­ing in­no­va­tions in ve­hi­cle light­ing that most can only dream about to­day. As it is, a ve­hi­cle’s light­ing sys­tem al­ready func­tions as a form of com­mu­ni­ca­tion—haz­ard lights, turn sig­nals, brake lights, for ex­am­ple. In the fu­ture, driver­less cars will need to in­ter­act with oth­ers on the road with even greater so­phis­ti­ca­tion. One of the vi­sions Audi has is of a three-di­men­sional OLED dis­play ex­tend­ing the en­tire tail of the ve­hi­cle, on the panel of the body, and in­te­grated OLED within the wind­shield.

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