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Emerging Technologies

Originally Published MPMN March 2002

SPECIAL

Emerging Technologies

A survey of new products and processes that will affect medical device design

Light-emitting polymers have glowing future

Constructed of light-emitting polymers, this 2.8-in. full-color display was jointly developed by Cambridge Display Technology and Seiko Epson Corp.

Special plastics that emit light when subjected to electrical current will provide the basis for developing thin, inexpensive color displays in the near future, predict researchers at Cambridge Display Technology (Cambridge, UK; www.cdtltd.co.uk). Discovered in 1989 by the company founder, light-emitting polymers (LEPs) could revolutionize sonography and other video display equipment by offering a durable technology that can be powered by two AA batteries. "With low power requirements and a thin-film design, these materials hold great promise for the medical device industry," says vice president of business development Stewart Hough.

LEP displays are constructed by applying a layer of the conjugated polymer material onto a glass or plastic substrate that has been coated with a transparent electrode. After the metal electrode has been sputtered or evaporated onto the top of the LEP, the application of electricity causes the polymer to emit light. Capable of providing the full RGB color spectrum, these displays have typical activation currents of 2–5 V and can be manufactured in a variety of sizes. "We've constructed units that measure 15 in. diagonally in the lab, but there are no theoretical size limitations with this technology," says Hough. "In the long term, I expect that production of 1 x 1-m displays will not be uncommon."

As LEP displays can be fabricated on a single sheet of glass or plastic, they offer manufacturers reduced production costs when compared with some liquid-crystal, field-emission, or plasma units. Submicrosecond response times that are unaffected by temperature and wide viewing angles are also cited as benefits. "Because the LEP film used is so thin, light is emitted very near the surface of the display, resulting in an image that can be viewed from almost any angle without color shifting," explains Hough. These features should prove attractive to manufacturers, and Hough expects to see commercialization of LEP products by the second quarter of 2002.

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Benjamin Lichtman, Norbert Sparrow, Katherine Sweeny, Zachary Turke, and Susan Wallace

Copyright ©2002 Medical Product Manufacturing News

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