Military application of OLED micro-display technology


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    Low-power Organic Light Emitting Diode (OLED) displays are used in a growing numbers of applications supporting dismounted soldiers and commanders in situational awareness, thermal imaging, simulation and training. Two types of OLED applications are currently under various phases of maturation – the near-eye microdisplays, developed by eMagin and Flexible OLED developed by Universal Display Corp. (UDC).

    OLED technology promises to revolutionize everything known about information display, from video walls, to dynamic pricing in supermarkets. For the military, Top-emitting OLED (TOLED) applications could include wrist-mounted, featherweight, rugged PDAs and wearable electronic displays such as “display sleeves” Other applications could be conformed, high-contrast automotive instrument panels, windshield displays and visor mounted displays to be used by for pilots, drivers and divers, etc. More futuristic applications could be utilized in camouflage systems, “smart” light emitting windows/shades etc.

    Until 2005, OLEDs were used primarily for testing. Yet, in 2004 and mostly by 2005, this technology is being integrated in more military systems and on the long run is expected to replace most small form-factor LCD displays. Among the applications where OLED technology is already maturing are near-eye displays of “virtual images” When projected on a head mounted, helmet mounted or visor (see-through) display, such image appears like an image in a movie theater or on a computer monitor, but is created using magnifying optics from a very small display near to the eye. Such an image displayed with very high resolution, can appear solid and real, or made see-through depending on the type optics used.

    Military and industrial customers are moving from the testing and evaluation phase into deployment. According to Kenneth Geyer, vice president of development at Liteye Systems Inc, the company has ordered OLEDs in production quantities, to supply orders received from military users in the USA, Europe and Australia. Several systems have also been deployed to warfighters in Iraq. “We anticipate additional programs moving into deployment phases in 2006 – 2007” said Geyer. Other users of OLED displays include SaabTech, integrating eMagin’s OLED into the prototype Soldier Head-Mounted Device (HMD).

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