According to a new report published by The Korea Herald earlier today, South Korea’s Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI) just announced that its joint efforts with Hanwha Techwin led to the development of transparent electrodes for OLED (organic light-emitting diode) displays made from graphene, as a substitute to more conventional indium tin oxide (ITO) widely used in manufacturing today’s transparent electrodes for OLED panels. This is the first time researchers have managed to apply graphene to an OLED panel, and according to the head of ETRI’s research team, Cho Nam-sung, the technology should help improve South Korea’s OLED panel technology and push local OLED panel manufacturers ahead of the rising competition from China.
Indium tin oxide has been used to create transparent electrodes in OLED panels for years, but as new concepts such as flexible displays began increasing in popularity, manufacturers have been forced to look for ITO substitutes and have generally found them in plastic materials. However, South Korea’s ETRI and Hanwha Techwin are now the first to apply graphene to OLED panels as an ITO alternative. One of the downsides of ITO is that the material is extremely fragile, making it more difficult to work with when crafting flexible displays. In contrast, graphene is an impressive atomic scale two-dimensional hexagonal lattice that is currently considered to be the thinnest, most flexible, and most electricity and heat-conducting material. Having said that, graphene seems to be a great material for creating transparent electrodes for OLED displays, and researchers have been working on ways to utilize graphene in OLED display manufacturing for a while now. ETRI and Hanwha’s researchers are the first to achieve this goal, as the team managed to use graphene electrodes with a thickness of fewer than 5 nanometers on the world’s largest OLED panel, measuring 370 x 470mm.
In related news, LG Display recently stated that many companies are making similar efforts in order to develop foldable displays without relying on ITO electrodes and instead applying substitute materials such as plastics. The Seoul-based panel maker added that if graphene electrode technology is commercialized in the near future, it would significantly help the display industry manufacture foldable panels on a massive scale. LG Display has been developing foldable and ‘rollable’ OLED displays for a few years now, and some of these products have been showcased on numerous occasions during electronics trade shows over the years, but the company has yet to debut such a creation on a commercial level.