Article last updated on: Dec 15, 2017

TADF, or Thermally Activated Delayed Fluorescence, is a relatively new class of OLED emitter materials that promise efficient and long-lifetime performance without any heavy metals. TADF research started in earnest in 2012, and TADF emitters are expected to become commercial by 2018.

Blue TADF emitter molecules

There are currently three main challenges with OLED emitters that TADF aims to solve - an efficient and long-lasting blue color emitter, low cost alternatives current red and green emitters and the development of soluble OLEDs that can be deposited using low cost ink-jet printing or other "wet" methods.

TADF is being developed by several companies. Japan-based Kyulux was established to commercialize Prof. Adachi's HyperFluoresence TADF technology. Germany-based Cynora is focusing on a blue TADF emitter. Both companies aim to release their first commercial materials in late 2017 or early 2018.

Idemitsu Kosan also considers TADF as one of the key OLED technologies and intends to focus on TADF in the future (although Idemitsu's actual TADF plans are not clear yet). UDC has been recently awarded a patent on TADF materials, although the company says that TADF is not in its focus.

The EU launched two TADF related collaborative research projects to focus on TADF emitters, Project HyperOLED and the 2015 project Phebe.

Latest TADF OLED news

NTHU researchers developed a di-boron TADF emitter that maintains its efficiency at high brightness

Researchers from Taiwan's National Tsing Hua University (NTHU) developed a new TADF OLED emitter material that maintains its high efficiency at high luminance. The researchers say that this new material is the world's most efficient TADF emitter at high brightness.

Prof. Zheng Jianhong, diboron OLED TADF developer, NTHU

The new material is made from two diboron-based molecules, CzDBA and tBuCzDBA. These donor–acceptor–donor (D–A–D) type and rod-like compounds concurrently generate TADF with a photoluminescence quantum yield of ~100% and an 84% horizontal dipole ratio in the thin film. The researchers synthesized a green TADF emitter that achieved a a high external quantum efficiency of about 37.8% with an efficiency roll-off of only 0.3% at 1,000 cd/m2.

DSCC: the OLED material market will reach $2.56 billion in 2022

Display Supply Chain Consultants (DSCC) says that OLED material revenues grew 43% to reach $869 million in 2017. DSCC expects the OLED material market to grow at a 24% CAGR until 2022, when the market will reach $2.56 billion.

OLED material revenue by type (2016-2022, DSCC)

The small/medium display market accounts to about 59% of the total OLED material market, and this will continue until 2022. For the TV market, DSCC expects ink-jet printing to enable producers to make lower the material costs of OLED TV production, and OLED TV materials will grow at a rate of 23%, from $344 in 2017 to $963 million in 2022.

OLED Handbook

Nagase invests $4.6 million in TADF developer Kyulux

Japan-based chemical producer Nagase announced that it invested ¥500 million Yen ($4.6 million USD) in Hyperfluoresence TADF materials developer Kyulux. Nagase is currently offering materials for LCD producers, so this is likely to be a strategic investment for the company.

Wisechip Hyperfluoresence TADF emitters demonstration (TADF Workshop 2017)

Kyulux’s first aim is to develop commercial red, green and yellow hyperfluorescence emitter/host combinations, to replace the 2nd-Gen phosphorescent emitters currently used in OLED displays and lighting panels. In 2017 Kyulux announced a collaboration with PMOLED maker WiseChip to bring Hyperfluoresence TADF emitter based displays to the market by the year's end.

Cynora presents a new blue TADF emitter, aims to meet LGD's and SDC's specification soon

German TADF developer Cynora recently participated in the international OLED summit in China, and the company presented its latest blue TADF material that features a CIEy of 0.18, EQE of 21% and a lifetime of 10 hours LT97 at 700 nits. This is an improvement of the material shown in September 2017 (which had the same specification but with a lower EQE of 14%).

Cynora: where are we today slide (Feb 2018)

Cynora reports that during the last 24 months, the company achieved its most important goals - high efficiency and a satisfying color point. It has made "tremendous progress" in the last year on the lifetime front and is now close to commercial lifetime specification.

OLED Ink-jet printing market situation, early 2018

Many OLED producers believe that Ink-Jet printing of OLED emissive materials is the best way to achieve lower-cost OLED TV production, and to enable OLEDs to compete in the medium part of the TV market. Ink-Jet printing is an efficient process (less material waste compared to evaporation) and it can be very quick as well. The main drawbacks of inkjet are the limited resolution and the need for soluble emissive materials which are less efficient compared to evaporation ones.

A Kateeva OLED ink-jet printing system

These challenges are being overcome, and it seems that at least four groups (in Korea, Japan and China) are charging forward towards mass production of ink-jet printed OLEDs. Ink-jet printer makers and soluble material suppliers are also optimistic ink-jet printing commercialization will soon be here as the material performance gap is diminishing.

The EU LEO project developed efficient and cost-effective OLED lighting technologies

Leo project logoIn 2015 the EU launched a 3-year €4 million OLED lighting project, the LEO project (Low-cost / energy Efficient OLEDs) that had an aim to develop efficient and cost-effective bendable OLED lighting technologies. The project consortium included Osram, and Cynora.

A month before the project officially ends, the partners updated on their progress. For this project, the partners develops several technologies, including low-cost metal foils integrating OLED anodes and possibly backside monitoring printed circuits, smart OLED top-electrode architectures and light out-coupling solutions and a novel thin film top-encapsulation strategies. These technologies together increased the light output by 50% while providing better surface scratch resistance.

Updates from the TADF symposium: Cynora's latest blue, SDC and LGD hopeful on TADF

A few days ago, Cynora hosted the 2017 International TADF Symposium in Frankfurt, Germany. Cynora reports that about 150 attendees from all over the world listened to experts from the industry and academia and were updated on the latest news regarding TADF OLED emitters.

TADF Symposium photo 2017

Cynora itself showed an update on its latest blue emitter. The company now has material that features a CIEy of 0.18 (target - 0.1), EQE of 14% (target 15%) and a lifetime of 10 hours LT97 at 700 nits (target is over 100 hours). Cynora says that development is progressing well and it is confident it will reach its target material performance by the end of the year.

Cynora announces its Series-B funding round, raises €25 million from Samsung and LG

Cynora announced that it finalized its Series-B funding round. Both Samsung (via Samsung Ventures) and LG Display participated in this round which totaled €25 million. Both LGD and samsung will also establish separate joint development efforts to assist in advancing Cynora's R&D.

Cynora did not disclose how much did each company invest, although earlier reports suggested that LG invested €15 million while Samsung invested €10 million.

Korea's Material Science joins the TADF emitter race

OLED chemical maker Material Science started to develop blue TADF emitters, hoping to be the first company to offer an efficient blue emitter.

Material Science OLED materials image

According to OLEDNet, Material Science has finished the development of a new fluorescent blue emitter and host system, which it now aims to offer to Samsung and LGD for commercial AMOLED production. Material Science currently offer ETL and HTL materials to OLED makers, with sales reaching $5.8 million in 2016. The company expects its sales to exceed $8.8 million in 2017.

Wisechip explains the development effort behind its HF-TADF PMOLED

Last month PMOLED maker WiseChip demonstrated a Hyperfluoresence TADF PMOLED display in a trade show in Japan, following a collaboration with HF TADF developer Kyulux. Wisechip says it will bring its first HF-TADF PMOLEDs to the market by the end of 2017.

Kyulux today uploaded Wisechip's presentation from the TADF workshop. In this lecture Wisechip’s VP of R&D Engineering Division, Dr. York Tsai, gave a presentation that detailed the Hyperfluorescence-PMOLED development effort and the performance boost enabled by the new material.