Exciting OLED Blue Light Breakthrough Promises To Eliminate Burn-In Forever

A couple on the couch watching TV.
Most people would agree that OLED is the best display technology on the market right now, in terms of overall image quality, though it's biggest weakness is its inherent propensity to permanently burn images into the screen in certain situations. Perhaps not for much longer—a research team spearheaded by the University of Cambridge has purportedly found a way to address what causes the unwanted phenomenon.

Organic light emitting diode (OLED) displays use patterned red, green, and blue sub-pixels in each individual pixel, which light up at different intensities to produce an array of vibrant colors. It also consists of multiple semiconductor layers that sit in between a pair of electrodes. An emissive layer in the middle lights up when it's hit with electricity, and this is what creates the brilliant image you see on the display.

That's a simplified explanation, but what matters here is that not all of the energy gets turned into light—some of it gets diverted and this can degrade the OLED structure, which in turn can lead to images being seared into the screen. This is what's known as burn-in, and it typically happens when bright, static images are displayed for long periods of time, such as a TV station's logo or a heads-up display (HUD) when playing games.

The main culprit is blue light, which is the least stable and efficient of the bunch. In a paper published in Nature and an accompanying press release, the research team outlines a new light emitter molecule that they say "blocks the destructive energy pathways" to effectively solve the issue.

"We’ve designed a molecule that’s allowed us to simplify the emissive layer of the blue pixel to only two components, while maintaining high efficiency, which could help to drive down cost," said Daniel Congrave, one the team's leads and co-corresponding author of the research paper. "The molecule we describe in this paper is also one of the narrowest emitting blue molecules out there, which is very useful for screens because it allows for high color purity."

The research paper dives into the technical depths of the breakthrough, but what it boils down to is harnessing blue light in a way that is much more stable and efficient, which has a number of benefits. The biggest one is eliminating or greatly reducing the risk of burn in, but it could also lead to OLED TVs that consume less energy and perhaps even cost less. It could also save manufacturers money that go into warranty claims.

Speaking of which, the novel approach comes on the heels of several notable monitor makers updating their warranty policies to specifically cover burn-in. Over the past several weeks, ASUS, Gigabyte, and MIS have each announced 3-year warranties on certain OLED display models, with specific language guaranteeing against burn-in.
Tags:  Displays, OLED, burn-in