DuPont, Sarnoff, and Bell Labs to collaborate on developing advanced display technology

OCTOBER 29--As part of a federally sponsored research-and-development initiative, DuPont (Wilmington, DE; www.dupont.com/displays) and Sarnoff Corporation (Princeton, NJ; www.sarnoff.com), a subsidiary of SRI International, have agreed to develop new organic thin-film-transistor technology on plastic substrates.

OCTOBER 29--As part of a federally sponsored research-and-development initiative, DuPont (Wilmington, DE; www.dupont.com/displays) and Sarnoff Corporation (Princeton, NJ; www.sarnoff.com), a subsidiary of SRI International, have agreed to develop new organic thin-film-transistor (TFT) technology on plastic substrates. Organic TFTs offer major advances in commercializing future-generation flexible display devices such as full-color polymer-based active-matrix OLED displays.

The research initiative will be sponsored as a National Institute of Standards and Technology Advanced Technology Program for three years. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed. Lucent Technologies' Bell Labs will be subcontracted to develop a new class of organic-TFT materials and design processes. This technical collaboration combines DuPont's expertise in OLED display panels, flexible substrates, cost-effective printing, and organic-TFT technologies with Sarnoff's expertise in active-matrix TFT designs and video display systems.

The capability of plastic-based displays provides broad applications for industrial and product designers. The technical venture plans to create flexible organic-TFT technology, which has the potential to dramatically reduce the cost of display backplanes while enabling the fabrication of lower-cost flexible display devices. Standard silicon-based TFT backplane manufacturing is a costly process with a need for billion-dollar facilities, and it is also inherently incompatible with flexible plastic substrates--involving multiple high-temperature vacuum-deposition and photolithography steps that are hostile to a plastic substrate.

Using advanced polymer materials, OLEDs produce bright, high-contrast display panels with fast refresh rates and a wide viewing angle. OLED panels are emissive, eliminating the need for the backlight required in display technologies such as liquid crystal displays. Their striking appearance and thin profile will help many OEMs differentiate their products.

According to market research-firm DisplaySearch, the flat-panel-display market is estimated to grow from a current $30 billion to $57 billion by 2006. OLEDs are expected to successfully penetrate key applications including cellular phones, PDAs, Internet access appliances, industrial and consumer electronics, and any other applications where bright, colorful, high-contrast, thin, video-capable displays are required. The development of flexible displays represents DuPont Displays' third-generation OLED products and would potentially address market applications ranging from small and medium to very large-sized displays. DuPont Displays anticipates the technology to be available by 2007. A mass production line in Hsinchu, Taiwan, was announced in August 2002 with plans to manufacture passive-matrix, polymer-based OLED displays on glass. These first products will be used in hand-held mobile communication devices such as cell phones and PDAs. DuPont Displays also plans to upgrade its pilot line facility in Santa Barbara, CA, to accommodate the fabrication of flexible polymer-based OLED displays by end of 2004.

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