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Toward a Truly White Organic LED

Sept. 13, 2013 – By inserting platinum atoms into an organic semiconductor, University of Utah physicists were able to “tune” the plastic-like polymer to emit light of different colors – a step toward more efficient, less expensive and truly white organic LEDs for light bulbs of the future.

“These new, platinum-rich polymers hold promise for white organic light-emitting diodes and new kinds of more efficient solar cells,” says University of Utah physicist Z. Valy Vardeny, who led a study of the polymers published online Friday, Sept. 13 in the journal Scientific Reports.

Certain existing white light bulbs use LEDs, or light-emitting diodes, and some phone displays use organic LEDs, or OLEDs. Neither are truly white LEDs, but instead use LEDs made of different materials that each emit a different color, then combine or convert those colors to create white light, Vardeny says.

In the new study, Vardeny and colleagues report how they inserted platinum metal atoms at different intervals along a chain-like organic polymer, and thus were able to adjust or tune the colors emitted. That is a step toward a truly white OLED generated by multiple colors from a single polymer.

Existing white OLED displays – like those in recent cell phones – use different organic polymers that emit different colors, which are arranged in pixels of red, green and blue and then combined to make white light, says Vardeny, a distinguished professor of physics. “This new polymer has all those colors simultaneously, so no need for small pixels and complicated engineering to create them.”

“This polymer emits light in the blue and red spectral range, and can be tuned to cover the whole visible spectrum,” he adds. “As such, it can serve as the active [or working] layer in white OLEDs that are predicted to replace regular light bulbs.”

Vardeny says the new polymer also could be used in a new type of solar power cell in which the platinum would help the polymer convert sunlight to electricity more efficiently. And because the platinum-rich polymer would allow physicists to “read” the information stored in electrons’ “spins” or intrinsic angular momentum, the new polymers also have potential uses for computer memory.

Read the whole press release here.

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