Layer Up: Zheng-Hong Lu poses with the Multi-Access-Chamber System in which one of the chambers is used to layer molecules to develop FOLEDs.
Given the cost and fragility of glass, Professor Zheng-Hong Lu is pioneering the field of flexible organic light emitting diodes (FOLEDs). With two patents pending, his flexible screen technology could provide consumers with devices like a roll-up TV and engineers with a viable-and bendable-glass alternative.
Present Position: Professor, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, University of Toronto
Degrees: B.S. and M.S. in Physics, Yunnan University, China; Ph.D. in Engineering Physics, University of Montreal
Describe what you do when at cocktail parties: We electrically activate organic molecules to emit colorful light.
How flexible screen technology works: FOLEDs are made on flexible materials, including transparent plastic films and reflective metal foils that can bend or roll into any shape. We develop FOLEDs by stacking layers of different molecules to convert electrical energy into light energy. By intersecting a positive electrode and a negative electrode, we can define the active light-emission area that forms one pixel in a flat-panel display. OLEDs (organic light emitting devices) convert electric energy directly into visible light, and the process is much more efficient than that of a conventional light bulb.
What is the benefit of OLEDs vs. traditional LCD? With traditional LCDs, you need to inject liquid crystal inside, which makes it a two-layer glass, plus a light bulb behind the glass screen. With OLEDs, you can make one-layer glass, which is cheaper, easier to make, and given a thickness about 1/10 of a human hair, weighs less too
How can engineers use it? Aerospace engineers can use flexible screen technology for space exploration, where a portable display would save weight, space, and money. Automotive engineers could use the crash-friendly FOLEDs for headlights on cars. For entertainment it could work as active wallpaper or a wall-sized television.
When do you expect flexible screen technology to be available? In two to three years, we hope to have a marketable device, like a cellphone, or TV display.
For more info, go to www.ecf.utoronto.ca/~luzheng