A pan-European consortium, brought together in the IST programme-funded STEPLED project, was awarded First Prize in this year's prestigious EU Descartes Prize for their work in light and image display screens. STEPLED paves the way for a range of innovative applications, such as pliable TV and computer screens and switch-on wallpaper.
The €700,000 award recognised work led by Professor Richard Friend of the University of Cambridge (UK) in association with a team of European researchers. The technology, which revolutionises the potential of polymeric light-emitting diodes (PLEDs) for light and image display screens, replaces deposited glass or silicon-backed display screens with flexible plastic substrates, allowing for cheaper processing.
"The project is the sum of a huge, collective effort under the European Commission's Fourth and Fifth R&D Framework Programmes," said Friend. "The Commission deserves a lot of credit for providing the funding mechanism that brought so many European partners together. It is much harder to create such a network on one's own."
Light emitting diodes made with semi-conducting polymers were discovered at Cambridge University in 1989. They were first fully commercialised in 2002 in an electric razor display made by Philips using Covion materials. The third industrial partner, Cambridge Display Technology, licenses the technology.
PLEDs for small flat panel displays have higher brightness and resolution than backlit LCDs (liquid crystal displays), are thinner, lighter, less complex and more power efficient. With full colour and video capability, PLEDs have the potential performance, lifetime and cost profile to challenge LCD technologies in volume, high-end applications such as laptops, PCs and TV screens. While flexible or roll-up displays are still further away, larger displays on rigid substrates are much closer in terms of industrial application.
"The interesting aspect is the combination of basic research, applied research and technology transfer to a European industry. In this way, we have been able to deliver a truly European technology that has found concrete applications amongst European companies, keeping the EU very much in the forefront internationally," he added.
In addition to the University of Cambridge, the other consortium members include Philips Electronics Nederland BV, Cambridge Display Technology (UK), Materia Nova from Mons, Belgium, Germany's Covion Organic Semiconductors, and the University of Linkoping in Sweden.
Professor Richard Friend
The University of Cambridge
Department of Physics
The Old Schools, Trinity Lane
CB2 1TS Cambridge
Source: Based on information from Professor Friend