Organic Transistor Could Outshine OLEDs

OLETs are faster and might make better on-chip optical interconnects

3 min read

4 May 2010—A transistor that emits light and is made from organic materials could lead to cheaper digital displays and fast-switching light sources on computer chips, according to the researchers who built it. Small displays made from diodes of the same type of materials (organic light-emitting diodes, or OLEDs) are already in commercial production, but the transistor design could improve on those and lead to applications where OLEDs can’t go. The new organic light-emitting transistor (OLET) is much more efficient than previous designs. It has an external quantum efficiency—a key measure of how much light comes out per charge carrier pumped in—of 5 percent. An OLED based on the same material has a quantum efficiency of only 2 percent. Previous OLET designs had an efficiency of only 0.6 percent.

A transistor-based light source would switch much faster than a diode, and because of its planar design it could be more easily integrated onto computer chips, providing faster data transmission across chips than copper wire, says Michele Muccini, who heads a research unit at the Institute for Nanostructured Materials, part of the National Research Council in Bologna, Italy. His team, along with researchers from flexible electronics maker Polyera Corp., of Skokie, Ill., reported their findings this week in the online edition of Nature Materials.

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The Ultimate Transistor Timeline

The transistor’s amazing evolution from point contacts to quantum tunnels

1 min read
A chart showing the timeline of when a transistor was invented and when it was commercialized.

Even as the initial sales receipts for the first transistors to hit the market were being tallied up in 1948, the next generation of transistors had already been invented (see “The First Transistor and How it Worked.”) Since then, engineers have reinvented the transistor over and over again, raiding condensed-matter physics for anything that might offer even the possibility of turning a small signal into a larger one.

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