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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/K016164/1
Title: The Energy Agenda: Exciplex blend small-molecule OLEDs; high performance fluorescent devices from E-type triplet harvesting
Principal Investigator: Monkman, Professor A
Other Investigators:
Bryce, Professor M
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Physics
Organisation: Durham, University of
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 August 2013 Ends: 31 July 2016 Value (£): 667,843
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Materials Synthesis & Growth
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
05 Dec 2012 EPSRC Physical Sciences Materials - December 2012 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
The energy agenda demands more efficient display and lighting technologies to meet the UK government's targets. Professors Monkman and Bryce propose a new paradigm for highly efficient organic LEDs (OLEDs) using only organic fluorescent emitters, rather than organometallic phosphorescent emitters that are currently very fashionable. Phosphorescent emitters have major limitations. Blue-emitting phosphorescent complexes especially suffer from poor stability and short lifetimes, and they have not yet produced the deep-blue emission required for both display and solid-state lighting applications. Our new devices will have as their emitters fully blended organic molecules which form exciplexes. An exciplex is a special type of electronically excited state that can occur at the interface of electron donating and electron accepting molecules. Exciplexes can emit light with high efficiency if the donor part also has high photoluminescence quantum yield. This idea of intentionally generating exciplexes is very different from accidental 'mixed' exciplex emission layers or exciplex contributions from interfacial states between transport and emission layers. The reason for doing this research is two-fold: firstly, exciplexes can have vanishingly small electron exchange energies resulting in nearly equivalent singlet and triplet energies. This means that it is efficient for triplet exciplexes to (thermally) reverse intersystem crossing back to the singlet manifold, thereby giving a method of 'harvesting' up to 100% of triplet exciplex states formed from charge recombination, i.e. they can be as efficient as a phosphorescent emitter. Secondly, using a very simple device structure comprising a hole transport layer (the donor), a blend donor-acceptor emission layer, and an electron transport layer (the acceptor) one achieves direct injection of charges into the exciplex which gives very low turn-on voltages (ca. 2.5 V) which also gives very high power efficiencies (lm/W). These features are very important for both mobile, battery-operated display devices and for lighting applications. Thus, exciplex based devices offer a step change in OLED design.

It is particularly important to replace phosphorescent blue emitters, as they chemically degrade during the vacuum deposition process used in device fabrication; they have short working lifetimes and do not emit deep-blue light which is essential for both high quality displays and lighting. We have demonstrated an initial deep blue exciplex system which is very promising: the device emits at 450 nm and has an efficiency of 2.7% at 2.8 V, using 'off-the-shelf' materials. There is considerable scope for improved design of materials. If the photoluminescence yield of the donor could be increased from 30% to 90% we could expect the exciplex emission to increase 4-fold in efficiency: this would yield a 10% efficient deep-blue device with a power efficiency approaching 30 lm/W. Improving the charge mobility of the donor should increase the efficiency still further. Colour tuning is also relatively simple as chemically modifying the donor or acceptor components will alter the molecular energy levels which dictate the exciplex energy.

The very simple exciplex device structure is perfect for industrial application as reducing the numbers of layers in a device greatly improves manufacturing yield and lowers the cost. During the project we will concentrate on monochrome devices with the goal of producing alternatives to red, green and blue phosphorescent systems, and then move to fabricate initial white-emitting devices to trial further new ideas to produce very simple white device structures.

New exciplex devices could provide a real alternative to phosphorescent systems and bring with them higher power efficiencies, longer lifetimes and far simpler device architectures. Doing this research in the UK will maintain our world capability and strength in OLED and OLED-lighting research and development.
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