OLED Q&A with Janice Mahon, VP of technology commercialization, Universal Display Corporation

Ron Mertens from OLED-Info.com recently had the opportunity to interview Janice Mahon, Universal Display's VP of technology commercialization.

Janice, could you give a small introduction about UDC, and about your PHOLED products?

Universal Display Corporation (NASDAQ: PANL) is a world leader in the development of innovative OLED technology for use in flat panel displays, lighting and other opto-electronics applications. Founded in 1994, Universal Display provides state-of-the-art OLED technology and services to OLED manufacturers to enhance their products' features and competitive advantage. We have developed proprietary OLED technologies and materials that should provide dramatically enhanced display performance at lower costs than today's liquid crystal displays.

Universal Display has one of the largest patent portfolios in the OLED field, with over 725 issued and pending patents worldwide. Derived from research we have funded at Princeton University and the University of Southern California; the acquisition of license rights, with the sole right to sublicense, to 74 OLED patents owned by Motorola, Inc., and the expanding array of technological innovations at Universal Display, our patents reflect a broad array of OLED technologies, materials and processes. Universal Display offers a range of options for delivering highly innovative technology solutions to meet its customers' needs. These include patent and technology licensing, technology evaluation and custom development, and technical assistance.

As the inventors of high-efficiency PHOLED™ phosphorescent OLED technology, the Company has become a leading authority and supplier of high-quality PHOLED materials for evaluation and commercial OLED uses. We produce our high-efficiency PHOLED materials through our longstanding relationship with PPG Industries, Inc. These materials are available for display manufacturers to evaluate and use in commercial production.

With approximately 55 employees, Universal Display is headquartered in Ewing, New Jersey in a state-of-the-art 40,000 square-foot facility. At this uniquely designed location, we fabricate engineering prototypes, engage in technology transfer with partners, and continue our development of proprietary technology for tomorrow's organic electronics.

Universal Display Corporation's PHOLED™ Phosphorescent OLED Technology and materials make it possible for OLEDs to attain up to four times greater efficiency than previously thought possible. Universal Display pioneered this technology with our partners at Princeton University and the University of Southern California, using the principle of electrophosphorescence to convert up to 100% of the electrical energy in an OLED into light. This is a significant improvement over conventional fluorescent OLEDs, where only 25% of the electrical energy is converted into light, and to liquid crystal displays (LCDs) where as little as 10% of the backlight emission is transmitted through the color filter array and other display components.

A significant advance for the OLED industry, Universal Display's patented PHOLED technology offers excellent performance for passive- and active-matrix displays as well as future lighting and other opto-electronic applications. PHOLED technology features:

  • record-breaking efficiencies
  • less heat generation
  • scalability to larger sizes
  • potential compatibility with amorphous-Silicon as well as poly-Silicon TFT active-matrix backplanes

Universal Display's award-winning PHOLED materials are available in a number of vibrant, long-lasting colors with record-breaking efficiency. These materials are produced using proven manufacturing practices and established quality and environmental management systems through our longstanding relationship with PPG Industries, Inc. We also device qualify all materials to strict analytical and device performance standards.

Q: In recent months you have had two meaningful press releases. The first one was a licensing agreement with Samsung SDI, the second was a PHOLED material agreement with AUO. Can you give us an update on the status of those two partnerships?

I would like to suggest that you refer to Samsung SDI's recent announcement where they indicated that they plan to have production on line in early 2007. There have also been public reports that AUO is supplying an AMOLED cell phone display to BenQ. We are supplying phosphorescent materials to AUO.

Q: When can we expect Samsung SDI panels that use UDC's IP?

When we signed our agreement with Samsung SDI, they indicated that their first commercial active-matrix OLED would be phosphorescent.

Q: Can we expect more licensing deals in the near future?

Our business strategy is to license, non-exclusively, our OLED technology to major display manufacturers who will produce OLEDs using our PHOLED and other OLED technologies. We have reported that as of December 2005, we have had agreements with 26 display manufacturers, most of these being pre-commercial at this time. We are working diligently so that many of these manufacturers will choose to incorporate our technology in their AMOLED products in the near future.

Today, PHOLEDs are a critical element in helping to reduce display power consumption, and our TOLED technology is an excellent way to improve display performance through top-emission for AMOLEDs.

Q: What products are using UDC's IP today? We are aware of a pioneer cell phone display... Which ones are in the pipeline?

Again, we can not comment on specific products and whether they use our technology.

Q: Recently the press enjoyed a short 'IP-fight' between UDC and CDT, about OLED ink jet technology. What is your take about this? How is your relationship with CDT?

We do not think that there was an IP-fight. In a recent news announcement, we reported a new patent that covers a novel way to use phosphorescent OLED materials (that are non-polymeric) in a solution-processable format such as ink-jet printing. Our approach is, and has always been, to use small-molecule, that is non-polymeric, OLED technology compared to CDT who works with conjugated polymers. CDT has also been a major player in helping to move ink-jet printing technology for OLEDs toward commercial use. They have done some excellent work in this area.

Q: There seems to be several novel methods to manufacture OLEDs. You have the OVPD technology, and there is a lot of talk about ink jet technologies. Can you clear things up a bit?

There are a number of interesting approaches to deposit OLED films, including the two that you list above. They each have a number of exciting performance features. It is too early to know how each will be deployed in the future. As the OLED industry grows, I suspect that they will each find applications in complementary areas.

Q: Do you see CDT's P-LED as a major competitor? How does PHOLED fare against P-LED?

We view our major competitor to be LCDs. If OLEDs are successful, we think that there is room for many participants to be successful in this market. We also believe that our PHOLED technology will play is key role in providing OLEDs with a competitive advantage over LCDs.

Q: One of the biggest questions is the blue life-time. You have recently announced advances in that area. When can we expect more news?

Yes, we have made some significant advances in blue PHOLEDs over the past year. We have taken the technology from a stage where some believed that it might not be possible to where we have demonstrated each of the key metrics: excellent luminous efficiency, blue saturation, and long lifetime.

For example, we announced a new blue PHOLED system with sky blue color of CIE (0.16, 0.37) with a luminous efficiency of 20 candelas per ampere (cd/A) and 100,000 hours of operating lifetime at 200 candelas per square meter (cd/m2) earlier this year. This followed the Company's breakthrough announcement in June, 2005 of a sky blue PHOLED with over 15,000 hours at 200 cd/m2. We continue to work diligently to develop blue PHOLEDs that will meet commercial requirements.

As we achieve meaningful advances, we will announce them.

Q: Another one of you technologies is TOLED: Transparent OLEDs. We have recently heard some news from the Fraunhofer institute and from the Technical University of Braunschweig about their research in transparent OLEDs. Can you update on your TOLED research? Is UDC losing its head start in transparent displays?

I personally believe that TOLED™ technology is very fascinating and ripe with novel product opportunities. We receive inquiries about TOLED technology from product developers and others frequently who have very interesting ideas for its use. When our academic partners first developed it, it was as a building block for a stacked OLED (SOLED™) structure. Since then, we have continued to develop this technology for transparent display and lighting applications and for top-emission uses in active matrix display in the nearer term.

We are pleased to see additional developmental work in this area. Moving from research to product manufacturing is the next critical step.

Q: Personally I think that White Light is the most promising parts of the OLED technology. Do you have any news regarding the OLED lighting research? When can we expect such a OLED "light bulb"?

An OLED is a light generating device that gives off small amounts of heat, compared to an incandescent light bulb that is a heat generating device that gives off small amounts of light! As a result, this new cool and efficient white OLED technology is very exciting in an era of increasing energy conscientiousness. White OLEDs, that we call WOLEDs™, is a key technology initiative at UDC, and our research is, in part, supported by grants from the U.S. Department of Energy. We too believe that this is a very promising area that spans white OLED applications in the display arena to longer-term general lighting uses.

Q: We have heard quite a lot about AMOLEDs on flexible metal foil. You have been engaged in army research. Why is that so important? Can you update us on that research?

Flexible OLEDs are an extremely exciting technology for the future, and, we believe, will provide performance features that LCDs can not offer. We have been performing research in this year for a number of years. Several years ago, we expanded our activities in this area to include flexible metal foil substrates in addition to polymer films.

Metal foil offers a number of attractive performance features. It is thermally very stable, offers an excellent permeation barrier, is very rugged, and should prove to be very cost-effective. The use of metal foil has allowed us to accelerate our work, in conjunction with backplane partners, on flexible AMOLEDs. This work is all focused on our exciting goal of developing our Universal Communications Device. The UCD is our founder's concept, that is, a pen-sized device that contains a flexible display that can be unfurled for use. As you may recall, we announced the delivery of initial flexible AMOLED prototypes to the U.S. Department of Defense. In addition, one of our scientists will present a paper at SID on this topic.

Q: There are several competing technologies that also aim to become the 'display of the future', and we do not yet know whether OLEDs will indeed be the most widely used technology. Do you care to comment on some of the other technologies?

We continue to believe that the fundamental characteristics of OLEDs are very well suited for display applications and that OLED technology offers the best opportunity to compete directly with LCDs.

Q: Some of the more esoteric OLED related research includes organic electronics and solar panels. Are you actively researching those areas? Do you have any news?

Yes, we are very committed to the exploration of technology for the broader field of organic electronics. In addition to our own work, we also support research by a number of our academic partners. For example, our long-standing research partnerships with Professors Steve Forrest, of University of Michigan, formerly of Princeton University, and Mark Thompson, of University of Southern California, are great examples where some of this pioneering research takes place. Steve and Mark are active in both organic electronics and solar cell research.

Q: A bit about UDC financial position... When do you expect to become profitable?

Please note that we were cash flow positive from operations in both the third and fourth quarters of 2005. We are actively working to grow our business through licensing and material sales and hope that this will transition into profitability as the OLED market develops.

Q: Kodak has announced their plans to put more emphasis on OLED displays. Their basic patents will start to expire on 2007. How will that effect UDC? Do you fear Kodak's competition?

We believe that our PHOLED technology will be a key element for OLED displays. Once again, we think that the primary competition is LCDs.

Q: When can we, realistically, hope to see an OLED TV, or a Laptop screen?

A number of leading electronics manufacturers are working toward this goal, and have demonstrated stunning prototypes at past industry exhibitions. We have heard goals of 2008, but this question is better directed to them.

Q: How do you see the display market 2010? What roles will OLEDs play?

We believe that OLEDs will continue to develop as a key display technology, and that OLED technology will be a mainstream display technology by then.

Q: Would you like to write a small message to your shareholders? Being one of them, I sometimes feel that UDC is very discreet. I totally understand the need for discretion in the IP business, but still would rather like to hear what you have to say to us.

We very much appreciate the support of our shareholders, and we are working with passion, devotion and determination to build long-term value for our shareholders.

Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions. I wish both you and UDC good luck!

Posted: May 04,2006 by Ron Mertens