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    NFC and flexible OLEDs could light up product packaging

    The EU-funded Rolled project has developed a cost-effective way to produce flexible, organic light emitting diodes (OLEDs) using roll-to-roll manufacturing technology. That means they could be mass produced very cheaply and an NFC phone could be used to interact with OLEDs incorporated into everything from product packaging to posters and beyond.

    ON A ROLL: The EU-backed project has developed a way to produce cheap flexible OLEDs

    ON A ROLL: The EU-backed project has developed a way to produce cheap flexible OLEDs

    The team working on the EU-funded Rolled project says it has succeeded in developing a way to produce flexible OLEDs (organic light emitting diodes) using roll-to-roll printing technology. This means it should be possible to manufacture the flexible OLEDs cheaply enough that they could be incorporated into everything from product packaging to business cards and beyond.

    And, because OLEDs use very little power, the team thinks NFC phones are one of the interesting ways in which power could be delivered to OLED displays — leading to some interesting ideas for new NFC applications.

    OLED screens are already making their way into TV sets and some mobile devices — but these are manufactured on a glass substrate. The Rolled project team’s solution allows the OLEDs to be printed onto flexible protective films, allowing thousands of devices to be rapidly and cost-effectively produced in a single ‘print run’.

    Two technology tests have been demonstrated by the team:

    • Food safety — A two-colour OLED element is connected to a product package. A green tick is shown when the package is closed. Once the package is opened, the fuse is blown and the tick becomes a red cross.
    • Low power — The second test used an NFC phone to power up the OLED element. For the test, researchers used a business card printed with an EU flag on which the stars were equipped with OLED elements and which lit up when an NFC phone was placed near the card.

    OLEDs could also be built into clothing, into a wide range of product packaging, into posters and could be used to produce flexible computer screens that could be rolled up like a newspaper.

    Using the Rolled team’s approach, each OLED element would currently cost “tens of cents” to produce — but researchers are currently evaluating other applications that would enable the price to be cut even further. The EUR 2.25 million Rolled project is being coordinated by Arto Maaninen, technical manager of the printed electronics department at the VTT Technical Research Centre in Finland, who expects the first OLED elements to be launched onto the market within two years.

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