David Kirkpatrick

September 18, 2009

The future of technology looks pretty bright

Filed under: Business, Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 6:23 pm

I’ve blogged on all three of the technologies — OLEDs and nanowires pretty extensively — but this is a very nice thumbnail sketch of what’s at the edge of the real-world horizon, if not already here.

From the last link:

Have a look at just three technologies that have the ability to completely revolutionize IT from the ground up: memristors, nanowires and OLEDS.

Memristors are transistor-like devices made out of titanium dioxide that can remember voltage state information. They hold the potential for completely revolutionizing storage and processing technologies because they erase the distinction between processing and storage (you can do both/and on the same chip). More prosaically, they make it possible to create storage devices that require no power. How will that affect your data center?

Then there are nanowires: tiny wires no more than a single nanometer in width that can be conductors, insulators or semiconductors (albeit with weird quantum properties). These can form the basis for embedded intelligent networks — sensor and control networks that are actually built into the materials and devices they control. (Take that, smart grids!)

Finally, there are organic LEDs, which have the interesting property that they can be printed onto things such as wallpaper at relatively low cost. Sony has developed OLED monitors, and GE is looking into OLED wallpaper. So in a couple of years, your new office (or home office) may come equipped with wallpaper that, at the touch of a button, can turn into a floor-to-ceiling high-resolution display. (Think of the bandwidth requirements).

Each of these technologies holds the possibility of completely reshaping IT within the next few years. And the conjunction of all three could make the conjunction of the transistor and fiber optics look like a warm-up act.

July 23, 2009

OLEDs hit the market …

Filed under: Business, Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:37 pm

… at $100 per square inch for prototypes. Ouch.

From the link:

Someday, our ceilings and walls might radiate light, illuminating indoor spaces as brightly and evenly as natural daylight.

Though that possibility remains years off, the Dutch electronics company Philips is letting people tinker with the technology that would enable it.

The world’s biggest lighting maker has begun selling do-it-yourself kits with little glowing wafers called “Lumiblades.” They come in red, white, blue or green for anyone who wants to pay nearly $100 per square inch.

It’s one of the first chances people outside research labs have had to get their hands on lights made from organic light emitting diodes, or OLEDs.

The company’s aim is to get designers, architects and other creative types thinking about how these flat lights can be used, and to start collaborating on early products.

Head here for more blog posts on OLEDs.

June 18, 2009

Cheaper OLEDs

I haven’t had an opportunity to blog about OLEDs in a while, but this looks like a real cost breakthrough. OLEDs have the potential to revolutionize lighting and display technology.

From the link:

Organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) are steadily making their way into commercial devices like cell phones and flat-screen displays. They’re fabricated with layers of organic polymers, which make them flexible, and they use less power and less expensive materials than liquid crystal displays.

The downside is that because the polymers react easily with oxygen and water, OLEDs are expensive to produce–they have to be created in high-vacuum chambers–and they need extra protective packaging layers to make sure that once they’re integrated into display devices, they don’t degrade when exposed to air or moisture.

MIT chemical-engineering professor Karen Gleason and MIT postdoc Sreeram Vaddiraju have developed a process that aims to solve the problems of high fabrication costs and instability for OLEDs while still maintaining their flexibility. Gleason’s solution is a hybrid light-emitting diode, or HLED. The device would incorporate both organic and inorganic layers, combining the flexibility of an OLED with the stability of an inorganic light-emitting material. “The idea is to have a mixed bag and capture the qualities that allow inexpensive fabrication and stability,” Gleason says.

January 16, 2009

The latest in organic solar cells

Another subject I haven’t had the opportunity to cover in a while. I really get the impression that basic research into advanced solar cell technology has passed a critical point where it’s when, and not how — and more importantly, the when part is now sooner than later.

The release:

U of T chemistry discovery brings organic solar cells a step closer

Inexpensive solar cells, vastly improved medical imaging techniques and lighter and more flexible television screens are among the potential applications envisioned for organic electronics.

Recent experiments conducted by Greg Scholes and Elisabetta Collini of University of Toronto’s Department of Chemistry may bring these within closer reach thanks to new insights into the way molecules absorb and move energy. Their findings will be published in the prestigious international journal Science on January 16.

The U of T team — whose work is devoted to investigating how light initiates physical processes at the molecular level and how humans might take better advantage of that fact — looked specifically at conjugated polymers which are believed to be one of the most promising candidates for building efficient organic solar cells.

Conjugated polymers are very long organic molecules that possess properties like those of semiconductors and so can be used to make transistors and LEDs. When these conductive polymers absorb light, the energy moves along and among the polymer chains before it is converted to electrical charges.

“One of the biggest obstacles to organic solar cells is that it is difficult to control what happens after light is absorbed: whether the desired property is transmitting energy, storing information or emitting light,” explains Collini. “Our experiment suggests it is possible to achieve control using quantum effects, even under relatively normal conditions.”

“We found that the ultrafast movement of energy through and between molecules happens by a quantum-mechanical mechanism rather than through random hopping, even at room temperature,” explains Scholes. “This is extraordinary and will greatly influence future work in the field because everyone thought that these kinds of quantum effects could only operate in complex systems at very low temperatures,” he says.

Scholes and Collini’s discovery opens the way to designing organic solar cells or sensors that capture light and transfer its energy much more effectively. It also has significant implications for quantum computing because it suggests that quantum information may survive significantly longer than previously believed.

In their experiment, the scientists used ultrashort laser pulses to put the conjugated polymer into a quantum-mechanical state, whereby it is simultaneously in the ground (normal) state and a state where light has been absorbed. This is called a superposition state or quantum coherence. Then they used a sophisticated method involving more ultrashort laser pulses to observe whether this quantum state can migrate along or between polymer chains. “It turns out that it only moves along polymer chains,” says Scholes. “The chemical framework that makes up the chain is a crucial ingredient for enabling quantum coherent energy transfer. In the absence of the chemical framework, energy is funneled by chance, rather than design.”

This means that a chemical property – structure — can be used to steer the ultrafast migration of energy using quantum coherence. The unique properties of conjugated polymers continue to surprise us,” he says.

 

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Greg Scholes and Elisabetta Collini are with the Department of Chemistry, the Institute for Optical Sciences and the Centre for Quantum Information and Quantum Control at the University of Toronto. The research was funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

October 11, 2008

Flexible OLED offers new lighting options

Filed under: Business, Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:28 pm

I’ve done a fair amount of blogging on OLEDs (hit this link for those posts and all my praise for the tech) so I do follow the developments and breakthroughs to a great extent. This application of Organic Light-Emitting Diodes is very exciting because it has the possibility of completely revolutionizing the concept of artificial lighting.

Plus it’s just plain cool.

From the second link:

On a bank of the Mohawk River, a windowless industrial building of corrugated steel hides something that could make floor lamps, bedside lamps, wall sconces and nearly every other household lamp obsolete. It’s a machine that prints lights.

The size of a semitrailer, it coats an 8-inch wide plastic film with chemicals, then seals them with a layer of metal foil. Apply electric current to the resulting sheet, and it lights up with a blue-white glow.

You could tack that sheet to a wall, wrap it around a pillar or even take a translucent version and tape it to your windows. Unlike practically every other source of lighting, you wouldn’t need a lamp or conventional fixture for these sheets, though you would need to plug them into an outlet.

The sheets owe their luminance to compounds known as organic light-emitting diodes, or OLEDs. While there are plenty of problems to be worked out with the technology, it’s not the dream of a wild-eyed startup.

OLEDs are beginning to be used in TVs and cell-phone displays, and big names like Siemens and Philips are throwing their weight behind the technology to make it a lighting source as well. The OLED printer was made by General Electric Co. on its sprawling research campus here in upstate New York. It’s not far from where a GE physicist figured out a practical way to use tungsten metal as the filament in a regular light bulb. That’s still used today, nearly a century later.