Samsung develops 21-inch OLED for TVs

Prototype screen using next-generation display technology may bring OLEDs to consumers faster than expected.

Electronics maker Samsung has unveiled a prototype OLED display that could push large screens using the next-generation technology to market sooner than expected.

The chipmaking division of the South Korean company on Tuesday announced a 21-inch display for TVs based on organic light-emitting diode technology. OLED is viewed as a potential successor to liquid crystal displays, used in many flat-panel TVs and computer monitors.

Materials in an OLED display emit light when an electrical current is applied. The displays can function without a backlight, which cuts down on power consumption, screen thickness and cost. OLED displays also offer higher resolution than LCDs.

Other electronics makers have developed and demonstrated large-screen OLED displays and smaller screens, about 2 inches across, are already being used in electric shavers, cell phones and digital cameras.

However, the Samsung announcement is noteworthy because its 21-inch prototype OLED relies on amorphous silicon technology, a mature technology used in most LCDs on the market today, according to Paul Semeza, an analyst with research firm iSuppli.

"This could lead to a quicker path to mass production because there are a lot of fabs out there that use amorphous...OLED could ride on existing investments in LCD," he said.

Samsung is one of the top manufacturers of LCD panels.

Consumers will still have to wait years to get their hands on OLED large-screen display. According to Semenza, companies will have to improve the manufacturing process, and an industry will have to form around OLED screens.

"Making one is one thing, making many is another and then making them competitive with established screen technologies is a totally other ball game," Semenza said.

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