30.11.09

OLED spinout scoops IP funding

A new generation of flat panel displays could be on its way as UK based revolutionary OLED developer and University of Hull spinout, Polar OLED, secures investment from the IP Group. The OLED materials cultivated by scientists from the university in the North East of England are said to be more cost-effective to manufacture than those currently developed by industry giants such as Sony and LG.

The University of Hull has a strong tradition in developing groundbreaking display technology as the first stable liquid crystals were invented at the university’s Chemistry department in 1971.

Professor Steve Kelly is from the Chemistry department and worked with Professor George Gray who pioneered the original liquid crystal research. He said: “I remember how rewarding it was to work with liquid crystals in the 1970s; to see how our work led to a new era in TV manufacturing - from the bulky cathode ray tube to the streamlined liquid crystal displays - was quite spectacular. What we are experiencing with OLED technology is just as much of a seismic shift and to be a part of this cutting-edge optoelectronic research is immensely exciting.”

Working alongside Professor Kelly is Professor Mary O’Neill from the University’s Physics department. She added: “This is a rare opportunity to work across the disciplines of physics, chemistry and commerce to develop a device that will have widespread impact. I look forward to seeing our OLED materials being used extensively.”

Recently the news has been rife with reports from major electronics companies unveiling new OLED models. Sony, LG and others are developing screens that are just millimetres thick and have a far sharper picture than plasma or LCD screens. However, the OLED TVs being manufactured are on sale in low volume and their price tag is still comparatively high. The University of Hull claims the materials being developed, under the Polar OLED brand, could be far more cost effective to manufacture and are different in make-up from the OLEDs currently being developed elsewhere.

Sony, for example is using a small molecule approach which the IP Group claims is difficult to scale-up and can only be deposited on glass surfaces. Others are using ink jet printing methods to produce small size displays, but resolution becomes an issue at larger sizes. The materials for devices being developed by the university however are said to be scalable, high resolution and can be manufactured on a variety of surfaces such as flexible plastic.

The work from the University has attracted investment from IP Group, an intellectual property commercialisation company that specialises in university technology. Under Polar OLED the university and IP Group aim to combine academic and commercial minds to create an approach that will be invaluable to companies producing OLED displays in large quantities.

Danny Lynham, investment manager for IP Group said: “We are truly excited about working with the University of Hull. OLED devices have huge commercial potential in the worldwide display market and we look forward to working closely with major strategic players to attract further interest and investment.”