The S. Korean display industry, the world’s No.1, has been on a roll for over a decade, consequently developing the domestic LCD industry to a great degree. However, the S. Korean display market has seen its fortunes sliding owing to strong competition from the Chinese display industry, which is strongly backed by rapid technology acquisition, facility expansion and government support. Now is the time for South Korea to size up its Chinese competitors and search for a new way forward.
“It is true that the domestic display industry is going through a crisis. Creating new markets that everyone can easily think of is no longer meaningful,” said Lee Sin-doo, a professor of electrical and information engineering at Seoul National University and one of the nation’s leading display experts. He argues that unless new innovative moves based on novel concepts – for instance, TVs doubling as a perfume dispenser and car-to-robot transformers - are made, advances in technology simply do not guarantee market growth in a situation where the market has already reached saturation.
Citing the automotive market, where different technologies, such as diesel, electricity and hybrid technologies, are used for the same purpose, Professor Lee continued, “Just like cars, displays are used for specific purposes. The display industry simply employs different technologies in manufacturing displays, so a new market cannot be spun off from the display market. Enlarging the display market requires efforts to develop new-concept technologies and to make inroads into developing nations or underdeveloped markets through the adoption of high-performance, mid-priced car strategies.
New demands gave rise to the display market.
The spread of personal computers led to growing demands for portable personal computers. Efforts to develop portable personal computers necessitated thin display panels. As a result, LCDs came out. Such a new-concept creation gave birth to a new market: laptop computers. The newly-created market subsequently led to the creation of an alternate market selling monitors.
The emergence of portable laptop computers got owners of chunky desktops thinking that their desktops took up too much space on their desks. Then, the development of technologies to make monitors thinner ensued, thereby ballooning the display market. Advances in monitor manufacturing technologies translated into high-definition displays, which also took the TV market to new heights.
Following the transition from LCD TVs to LED TVs, i.e. LCDs equipped with LED backlight units (BLUs), the baton was handed over to mobile phones, which people frequently purchase and trade in for new ones. As a result, an organic light emitting diode (OLED) is now basking in primary spotlight. As a matter of fact, South Korea is far ahead of others in terms of OLED technology.
Basically speaking, OLED emits light through the combination of electrons and holes. Using different materials in the organic films makes it possible for OLEDs to emit different colored light.
Such OLED technologies ensure the world’s widest color gamut. Self-emitting OLEDs make OLED TVs superior to LCD TVs in color reproduction. And since OLED TVs do not require backlight units, they show off their slimmer bodies. In addition, as OLED pixel colors appear correct and undistorted, OLED TVs come with a much wider viewing angle than LCD TVs.
OLET will overcome OLEDs’ drawbacks.
Professor Lee has played a pivotal role in catapulting Korean display makers into the top positions in the global market for LCD and OLED displays and in taking the Korean display industry to new heights. Back in 1992, when South Korea’s LCD technology was still in poor shape, Lee Sin-doo, who was then in the middle of developing OLED technology in the US, decided to fly back to his home country, with a view to expediting the nation’s LCD development by simplifying manufacturing processes and addressing problems related to resolution and size. His dedication paid off. The South Korean display industry has come out on top in LCD and OLED, becoming the envy of the world. Yet, Profession Lee is already making preparations for the future, refusing to sit on his laurels. What he is currently keen on is an organic light-emitting transistor (OLET).
In contract to OLED that has two electrodes (the cathode and anode), OLET, a new light-emission concept, comes with three electrodes, giving it a competitive edge over OLED. OLET uses network electrodes, so it can emit light in the same structure without being affected by the type of substrates.
The centerpiece of OLET lies with addressing OLED’s shortcomings. The supply of light though vertical-type organic transistors can solve OLED’s problems, so OLET will soon take over from OLED.
Though China, armed with LCD technologies, is fast closing in on South Korea, equipped with OLED technology, China still lags far behind South Korea in OLET technology. Professor Lee has already applied for a patent on his OLET technology. Once he gets his OLET technology patented, the OLED market will decline sharply.
Artificial irises are Professor Lee’s another next big thing.
Professor Lee’s dissertation on artificial irises has recently been selected as one of the leading theses in the top 0.1 percent of the academic papers. Professor Lee has already applied for Korean ad US patents on his artificial iris technology, which has been introduced in Biomaterials (an international journal covering the science and clinical application of biomaterials).
There is a similarity between the human iris and camera lenses. The key to taking high-quality pictures or seeing things clearly with the naked eye depends on how effectively the amount of incoming light is controlled. The aperture of a camera and the human iris are in charge of this job. The iris regulates the amount of light by controlling the size of the pupil,a hole located in the center of the iris of the eye. For instance, thepupil gets smaller in bright light to block out excess light. Those with birth defects in their irises or people suffering from degeneration of the muscles of the iris often complain about their eyes’ sensitivity to glare.
“Artificial irises will be of great help to those with birth defects in the iris or people suffering from the muscles of the iris losing strength due to either aging or unfortunate accidents,” said Professor Lee. Indeed, contact lens-like, wearable artificial irises, which can regulate the intensity of light by themselves, will come in very handy to those with iris-related problems.
On top of that, since his artificial irises can come in varied colors, they can also be used for aesthetical purposes like circle lenses, namely cosmetic contact lenses. Besides, as real-like intricate iris patterns are printed on his artificial irises, they would look much more natural than existing circle lenses
Professor Lee’s artificial iris technology is very much intriguing in that it is an outgrowth of a leading display guru’s endeavors to develop a new technology by adding creativity to basic sciences and putting different technologies together.