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In 1989, researchers at the Cambridge University, U.K. found out that on passing electricity, certain polymers emitted light and in 1992 Cambridge Display Technology (CDT) Ltd. was developed in order to commercialise this technology known as Light Emitting Polymer (LEP). The team of Dr. David Fyfe, Professor Richard Friend, Dr. Jeremy Burroughes, Dr. Karl Heeks and Dr. Carl Towns were responsible for the development of this technology and CDT was acknowledged as patron of LEP. LEP technology is closely related to Light Emitting Diode (LED) technology and is often referred to as poly-LED. LEP consists of a two-layered polymer consisting of - a hole-transporting layer of poly - phenylene vinylene (PPV) and an emissive layer of a cyano-substituted PPV derivative (CN-PPV). When electrons and holes flowing in opposite directions from two electrodes meet, they release the excess energy as light. The greater the difference between the electron and the hole, the light emitted is closer to the blue end of the spectrum. The early products of CDT were closer to the red end of the spectrum and it wasn't until 1999 a blue light light emitting LEP was designed.
In terms of manufacturing, LEPs are simple to produce as the circuitry doesn't need to be more complex that the circuitry of LCDs and it also does not require any backlights, filters or polarisers. LEPs are also cheaper than LCDs and CRTs since the active material is plastic. Philips, the first company to license CDT's core patents, expects to use LEP backlights for mobile phones. One of CDT's key innovations is the fact that it can be created by ink-jet printing light emitting polymers onto a sheet of plastic. These devices can be manufactured on flexible plastic sheets and therefore, we can also have display in non-planar shapes.
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Also existing LCD manufacturers can switch over to LEP at very low cost because the poly-silicon Thin Film Transistor (TFT) driving mechanism used in majority LCDs can be used to drive LEP displays. The CDT and Sieko-Epson tie-up has been extremely successful and in February, 2003 the world's first plastic display was announced. The monochrome screen was a 50mm square sheet only 2mm thick!! LEP displays do not suffer from the directionality or blurring effects typical of other flat panel technologies. They can be viewed literally at any angle in the 180 degree plane compared to the 45 degree angle of LCD and also images have greater clarity because LEP is self-emissive.
LEP technology has advanced to a point where it is likely to be the replacement for low-information and high-information content. It is also likely to enable new types of display that have not yet been envisaged. The Cambridge Display Technologies Limited is effectively exploiting this technology by licensing and technology transfer, joint ventures, corporate partnerships. By late 2001, licenses have been granted to DuPont Displays, OSRAM, Philips and Sieko-Epson. Also, at the Wall Street Journal CEO forum, industry leaders identified LEP technology as one of the three technologies to storm the market in the coming years.