Organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) are a promising lighting technology. In particular OLEDs fabricated on plastic foils are believed to hold the future. These planar devices are subject to various optical losses, which requires sophisticated light management solutions. Flexible OLEDs on plastic substrates are as prone to losses related to wave guiding as devices on glass. However, we determined that OLEDs on plastic substrates are susceptible to another loss mode due to wave guiding in the thin film barrier. With modeling of white polymer OLEDs fabricated on PEN substrates, we demonstrate that this loss mode is particularly sensitive to polarized light emission. Furthermore, we investigated how thin film barrier approaches can be combined with high index light extraction layers. Our analysis shows that OLEDs with a thin film barrier consisting of an inorganic/organic/inorganic layer sequence, a low index inorganic negatively affects the OLED efficiency. We conclude that high index inorganics are more suitable for usage in high efficiency flexible OLEDs.
A general challenge in Organic Light Emitting Diodes (OLEDs) is to extract the light efficiently from waveguided modes within the device structure. This can be accomplished by applying an additional scattering layer to the substrate which results in outcoupling increases between 0% to <100% in external quantum efficiency. In this work, we aim to address this large variation and show that the reflectivity of the OLED is a simple and useful predictor of the efficiency of substrate scattering techniques without the need for detailed modeling. We show that by optimizing the cathode and anode structure of glass based OLEDs by using silver and an ITO free high conductive Agfa Orgacon™ PEDOT:PSS we are able to increase the external quantum efficiency of OLEDs with the same outcoupling substrates from 2.4% to 5.6%, an increase of 130%. In addition, Holst Centre and partners are developing flexible substrates with integrated light extraction features and roll to roll compatible processing techniques to enable this next step in OLED development both for lighting and display applications. These devices show promise as they are shatterproof substrates and facilitate low cost manufacture.