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‘Flexible OLED displays coming soon’

Professor Kim says OLED technology will dominate global display market

Kim Yun-hi, a chemistry professor at Gyeongsang National University. (Gyeongsang National University)
Kim Yun-hi, a chemistry professor at Gyeongsang National University. (Gyeongsang National University)

A leading Korean chemistry researcher has predicted that the era of truly flexible organic light-emitting diode displays will come as early as next year as major electronics firms plan to churn out a slew of smart devices that can be folded and rolled up.

“Consumers will likely see various types of flexible or bendable displays applied to smartphones and wearable gadgets,” Kim Yun-hi, a chemistry professor at Gyeongsang National University in Jinju, South Gyeongsang Province, told The Korea Herald.

”For example, the next generation of the Galaxy Gear and Google Glass, featuring fully flexible displays, will come out within a couple years,” she said.

Stressing that the OLED is indeed the technology of the future, the professor predicted that the technology will dominate the global display market down the road as the OLED displays become cheaper and lighter than those currently used.

According to Kim, the flexible displays currently on the market are not “truly flexible” products.

“The flexible displays do not deserve their name since they were just stretched by force into a curved shape,” Kim said.

Organic polymers recently developed by Kim and a group of researchers are expected to help developers overcome the limitations of the existing technology, such as inorganic thin-film transistors and oxide thin-film transistors, paving the way for the truly flexible display era.

The materials have better pliability and stability than other OLED technologies, and have a record-high level of charge-carrying mobility, she said.

The researcher expects that the materials with high electron mobility will help us develop much lighter and cheaper smart gadgets equipped with flexible and bendable displays.

The organic polymers can also be used for various products, ranging from photovoltaic panels and radio frequency identification devices to biometric recognition gadgets, according to the professor, who has been working with Samsung Display in developing materials for OLED technologies and nurturing students in the field.

She has received calls for collaboration from global chemical and display firms, which she declined to identify, in developing new displays.

Based on the findings of market research institute DisplaySearch, Samsung Electronics forecasted, that the flexible OLED displays will take up around 40 percent of the mobile display market by 2018.

Yoon Boo-keun, Samsung’s consumer electronics chief, recently said that the Korean tech firm would likely unveil flexible TVs next year. 

(from left) Samsung’s curved OLED TV (Samsung), LG’s G Flex curved smartphone (Bloomberg)
(from left) Samsung’s curved OLED TV (Samsung), LG’s G Flex curved smartphone (Bloomberg)

Earlier this year, Samsung and LG both rolled out curved OLED TVs and curved OLED smartphones.

The world’s first curved products failed to appeal to customers, mainly because of high price tags and an absence of unique features other than the curved bodies.

Another challenge for the tech firms is the lack of key fundamental technologies, according to Kim.

The Korean tech firms are indeed eager to obtain related patents for OLEDs.

In 2009, LG Electronics acquired the OLED business unit of Kodak, which first created the OLED technology in 1979. This year Samsung Electronics and Cheil Industries, a subsidiary of Samsung Group, purchased Novaled, a German firm that owns around 500 intellectual property rights for OLED technologies.

By Kim Young-won (