Update: In March 2011, we posted a follow-up interview with Andy, updating us on Plextronics' business and technology.
OLED-Info.com recently had the opportunity to interview Andy Hannah, the CEO and President of Plextronics. Plextronics was founded in 2002, as a spin-out from Carnegie Mellon University, and is developing critical technology that enables broad market commercialization of organic electronic devices. Such devices include plastic chips, polymer solar cells and organic lights and sensors.
Q: You have developed an optimized hole injection layer for PLED devices. Can you explain that?
The hole injection layer or HIL functions as a gatekeeper that balances the flow of electricity into the OLED, improving the efficiency of generated light, and smoothing out any rough electrodes that would otherwise cause rapid device failure. Plextronics has developed Plexcore HIL, a non-acidic, solvent-based ink that when printed using spin-cast or inkjet techniques form carefully tuned thin-films that function as the HIL.
Plexcore HILs can dramatically improve the efficiency and lifetime of OLEDs as used in flat panel displays or general white lighting.
Q: Can this technology be applied to OLEDs as well, or just to PLEDs?
Plexcore HIL is being optimized for use in solution-processed polymer based OLED, or PLED, devices. In addition, we have customers interested in having tailored Plexcore HIL technology for small-molecule based OLEDs, or SMOLEDs.
Q: Have you sold your HIL to any OLED manufacturers? Do you have any customers yet?
Plexcore HIL is currently in advanced product development. We are working closely with display manufacturers in their commercial qualification processes. We expect to have commercial product fully qualified during 2006.
Q: Are you a CDT licensee?
We produce advanced HIL technology for PLED devices. To the extent we are successful; we accelerate the commercialization of PLEDs which can be helpful to CDT. We do not manufacture displays and are not a licensee of CDTs.
Q: You have recently (Nov 2005) been awarded with a USDC R&D contract. Can you give some details?
We are very excited about being award the USDC R&D contract for further development of our Plexcore HIL product. The award is a valued industry endorsement of the potential of our technology. Throughout the contract we will be creating improved Plexcore HIL technology that will be evaluated by members of the USDC. Their feedback will influence the next round of development. The ultimate goal of the project is to accelerate OLED commercialization including Plexcore HIL.
Q: Are you involved in OLED white lighting research?
Plexcore HIL can be tailored for white lighting and will be critical to its ultimate success. The requirements for efficiency and lifetime are particularly stringent for white lighting applications.. At this time, we are have established relationships with key developers of this technology to further our efforts.
Q: Where do you see OLED displays in a few years? When do you estimate will I be able to purchase an OLED TV?
We expect OLEDs to be seen in large and larger display surfaces as the lifetime and efficiency of the devices improve. OLEDs are presently available in devices such as cell phones and MP3 players. Samsung has prototyped TVs. Several companies including Casio, Epson, and Delta have announced plan to have large screens available in 2007.
Q: Can you describe your Polymer based chips research?
Plexcore OS is a commercial semiconductor product that is being integrated into products that will come to market in late 06/early 07. It can be formulated into a solvent-based ink.
The key challenge for organic transistors and circuitry lies in the identification and development of semi-conductors that are sufficiently high performing (e.g. mobility) to enable commercialization while maintaining the convenient processability of an ink. Plexcore OS is designed to have the molecular structure, polymer length, and purity that delivers this performance while maintaining a high degree of solubility.
Plexcore OS can be printed into thin films using spin-cast, inkjet, offset or other printing techniques. One current target application is a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tag that is inexpensive enough to replace the barcode on individual consumer product items.
Q: You are also dealing with polymer solar cells. Can you give more info on that?
Plextronics' Plexcore PV is a class of semi-conductive polymer that can strongly absorb the sun's light and generate the electric charges required to function as a solar cell. These polymers are also referred to as "p-type semi-conductors" because they readily conduct positive charges and when mixed with appropriate "n-type" materials, allow fabrication of a complete solar cell. Plextronics manufactures Plexcore PV as a solvent-based ink that can be printed as thin layers on plastic substrates enabling large area, low-cost solar cell production.
Q: What are Plextronics plans for the next year, and further?
Our primary goal in 2006 is to commercialize Plexcore HIL and have it qualified into our customers products to accelerate the total market opportunity. Additionally, we are continuing to progress development of our solar cell and organic semiconductor products for commercialization in 2007 and 2008.