The “cyFLEX” project is aimed at adapting materials for organic light-emitting diodes (OLED) to printing and coating processes. Printed OLED might be used for future production of luminous packagings, labels, and billboards. cyFLEX is carried out by the Light Technology Institute (LTI) of KIT in cooperation with cynora GmbH and covers the complete chain of values added from the material to the component. The project has just started with a total funding volume of EUR 576,000 and has a duration of two years. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with EUR 319,000.
Organic light-emitting diodes consist of organic layers with nanometer thickness. They supply homogeneous, planar light without any shadows. Moreover, OLED are characterized by a high flexibility. They may be applied to flexible carrier materials, e.g. to plastic foils, as a result of which foldable or rollable ultra-thin displays or self-luminous packagings can be produced. Compared to polymer OLED, OLED based on low-molecular compounds, so-called small molecules, are characterized by higher energy efficiencies, better qualities, and longer service lives. However, production of small-molecule OLED has been based nearly exclusively on material-consuming vacuum evaporation of expensive metal complexes so far. “To produce high-quality OLED at competitive costs, low-cost metal-organic molecules have to be developed and adapted to appropriate printing and coating processes,” Dr. Norman Mechau, Head of the working group at the Light Technology Institute of KIT, explains.
For this purpose, the cyFLEX joint project was launched: cynora GmbH developed optoelectronic emitter materials based on copper metal that is inexpensive and highly available. Under cyFLEX, these patented materials will be modified specifically. Dissolution, viscosity, wetting, and layer formation properties will be varied such that the materials are converted into liquid formulations and may be applied in the form of homogeneous thin films for use in printing and coating processes suited for mass production.
Under cyFLEX, the consortium of cynora, KIT’s LTI, and the InnovationLab (iL) GmbH research and transfer platform adapts copper-based emitter materials to printing and coating processes, develops OLED inks, and studies aspects of liquid processing and large-area printing. It is planned to produce a printed flexible OLED foil in a small series. Potential packagings with luminous and animated images, logos, and texts might open up new product marketing options in the future. “For example, light effects may start when a customer approaches a product in order to attract attention,” Dr. Norman Mechau says.
cynora GmbH studies novel organic semiconductors that can be used as luminophores in organic light-emitting diodes due to their physical properties. Activities cover complete material and component development, from the design of new functional molecules for organic light-emitting diodes to laboratory synthesis to the testing of materials in the production of OLED components. Work is aimed at further increasing the efficiency of OLED, at improving their service life, and at reducing production costs. cynora GmbH has its office at one of the two KIT high-tech incubators on Campus North. Further information is available at www.cynora.com.
InnovationLab (iL) GmbH is an application-oriented research and transfer platform of science and industry in the Rhine-Neckar Metropolitan Region. It is funded by the universities of Heidelberg and Mannheim, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), and the companies of BASF SE, Merck KGaA, Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG, and SAP AG.
Being “The Research University in the Helmholtz Association”, KIT creates and imparts knowledge for the society and the environment. It is the objective to make significant contributions to the global challenges in the fields of energy, mobility, and information. For this, about 9,800 employees cooperate in a broad range of disciplines in natural sciences, engineering sciences, economics, and the humanities and social sciences. KIT prepares its 22,300 students for responsible tasks in society, industry, and science by offering research-based study programs. Innovation efforts at KIT build a bridge between important scientific findings and their application for the benefit of society, economic prosperity, and the preservation of our natural basis of life. KIT is one of the German universities of excellence.