Multi-million-Euro initiative to turn Germany into an OLED global powerhouse.

Ned Stafford/Hamburg, Germany

German chemicals giant BASF has launched a Joint Innovation Lab to focus on organic light emitting diodes (OLEDs) and organic photovoltaics as part of a government initiative to help turn Germany into an OLED global powerhouse.

The lab, based at BASF headquarters in Ludwigshafen, and BASF’s partner firms (see below) were awarded a €29.4-million (?20 million) five-year grant from Germany’s Education and Research Ministry. The ministry has allocated €100 million for an initiative to spark research into applying OLED technology for lighting, with industry chipping in an additional €500 million. OLEDs are flat, thin light-emitting devices made from organic semiconductive materials.

Christian B?hme, a BASF spokesman, told Chemistry World: ’BASF sees organic electronics as a key technology. As a chemical company we can make an important contribution in this field.’

The lab will also be used by OLED researchers from partner firms OSRAM Opto Semiconductors, Philips Deutschland, Aixtron, and Applied Materials, as well as university scientists, said B?hme. The chief goal of the lab, on which BASF has spent €1.5 million, is to develop OLEDs for use as appliance in the lighting market, he said.

German Research Minister Annette Schavan, who was at the launch on Monday, said Germany is already a leader in OLED research for lighting and can evolve into a major manufacturer of OLED lighting appliances.

Klaus Meerholz, chair of the Institute of Physical Chemistry at the University of Cologne, Germany, said that Asia leads on OLED display technology, followed by Japan and South Korea. He told Chemistry World that applying OLED technology for lighting is still a relatively new field, although both fields are based on the technology of light-emitting organic semi-conductors.

’Lighting is a new technology and the race is still open,’ said Meerholz. ’So that is why the [Research Ministry’s OLED light] initiative makes sense, to emphasize an area that is not decided yet."’

Meerholz’s institute is part of a group of academic and industry researchers awarded a €10.4 million grant from the German Research Ministry for OLED lighting research. His academic team has worked closely with Merck KGaA on a high-resolution, full-colour polymer OLED display based on direct lithography.

He said that Germany, the UK and the Netherlands are home to some of Europe’s top OLED research centers.

Meerholz believes that OLED lighting appliances hold great potential to become a major commercial market, but that researchers still have a lot of work to do. Scientists still need to develop technology to extend the lifetime of OLED lighting and to make sure that the initial lighting colour does not change with age, he said. For example, if white OLED lighting loses its reddish component, its tone turns greenish-blue, he explained.

’The market will be there, but this is a real tough technology’ he said. ’There are still some major hurdles to overcome.’ 

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