An interview with Merck's OLED unit VP, Dr. Udo Heider

Merck is a global pharmaceutical and chemical company based in Germany, working on high performance OLED materials. We're happy to post this third interview with Merck's OLED unit VP, Dr. Udo Heider:

Q: Dr. Heider, thanks for taking the time to do yet another interview with us.

Thanks Ron. I do appreciate this opportunity to communicate about our recent Merck OLED activities.

I'm assuming that Merck is still focused on Solution Processable materials. Can you give us a short update on the current status of your materials?

Yes, of course, we are very diligently focused on solution processable materials development based on our customers requests. As communicated in the past, Merck is working on solution processable small molecule materials. Our chemists have devised ways to redesign an evaporable small molecule and optimize its performance within a soluble device stack, applicable to the various soluble "printing" process windows.

The base for this is, of course, evaporable small molecule materials. Without a strong material roadmap and pipeline in evaporable small molecules, the above strategy of using state-of-the-art redesigned small molecules in soluble would not work. Hence, Merck has had over the last several years a very strong focus on building a strong evaporable small molecule material portfolio.

Moreover, as a physicist my prime interest has always been to boost Merck's fundamental understanding of physical/chemical interactions in OLED. This has been a prime organizational focus that is proving to be a positive step forward.

Do you currently offer any commercial products? Are there any OLED display/lighting panels that use Merck's materials?

 Yes, of course, Merck offers evaporable OLED materials to the market for OLED displays as well as lighting applications. Due to confidentiality, I am not allowed to describe our recent progress here, but I can report that well over 10 Merck OLED evaporable OLED materials are qualified in the commercial OLED products of numerous manufacturers.

As for soluble materials we are working with lead display customers and equipment process suppliers. Significant progress has been made on a research and development level, and we believe that "commercial relevance" proof of concept is not that far out.

If I understand it right, you're focusing on emitting materials. Are you also working on materials for different stack layers, or host materials?

Working on solution processable materials means that we have to address all key materials to provide a complete functional solution to the market. So Merck is not only working on emitting layer materials, but also on the surrounding materials.

When do you think companies will be able to actually manufacture panels using solution processable materials? What are the challenges that still need to be overcome?

As addressed in previous question, my view is that working together with OLED device and equipment process suppliers is the best way to drive this technology to commercialization. Merck as a material supplier is working on all issues pertaining to material and formulation so as to establish a reliable supply chain for the market.

We have our work cut out for us and are addressing this. I cannot judge when all other device- or process-related issues will be sufficiently addressed, but I believe that recent steps are very convincing and that there is certainly a "bright" light at the end of the tunnel.

Dupont seems to be making good progress with their nozzle-printing technology. Will your materials be compatible with this technology?

Merck as a material company is approaching the solution processable material development from a broad processing perspective. So indeed, we do believe that nozzle printing is also sufficiently covered in our approach.

DuPont 4.3-inch printed OLED prototypeDuPont 4.3-inch printed OLED prototype

In November 2011 it was reported that Merck is seeking a Taiwanese partner to co-develop OLED technologies and produce small OLED displays. Was that report correct?

It is good to take this opportunity to correct the announcement. Merck is a materials company and as such we will not venture into OLED display panel production in any form or shape. Since Taiwanese display manufacturers have active programs in AMOLED development, we are studying ways to improve our presence in Taiwan in OLED on a technical/commercial level. 

In October 2011 Merck opened a new OLED R&D lab in South Korea. Any updates on the lab? Is it operational now?

Our OLED R&D lab in South Korea is staffed and up & running. Within the existing Merck Korea R&D facility we have established a state-of-the-art OLED development laboratory to work closely with South Korean customers and to provide fast qualification process support.

It is still early in the day, but I am happy with the initial feedback and results.

What is your opinion of LG's and Samsung's 55" OLED TV unveiled at CES? Do you think that these can be successful products in 2012/2013, or did these companies jump in too quickly?

This question is not up to me to answer as I only have the Merck OLED view. I can say, though, that we as Merck will support customers in their development of OLED TV from a material perspective.

Dr. Heider - thanks again for this interview. We hope to keep hearing good news from Merck!

This is our third interview with Dr. Heider. The first one was conducted in February 2009, and the second one in May 2010.

Disclosure: Merck is an OLED-Info sponsor

Posted: Apr 15,2012 by Ron Mertens