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British Firms Plan Merger to Lead in Screen Technology

Cambridge Display Technology's purchase of Opsys unit would give it control of a method to create organic light-emitting diodes.

October 28, 2002|From Reuters

AMSTERDAM — Two British companies announced plans early today to merge to become a world leader in the technology of so-called glowing plastics.

Cambridge Display Technology announced the acquisition of the research activities of rival Opsys, giving it control of another major method to create organic light-emitting diodes (OLED).

Financial details were not disclosed.

The two closely held companies sell their know-how to major electronics manufacturers, such as Seiko Epson Corp., Philips, DuPont Co. and Siemens, some of which have just opened factories for the first generation of monochrome OLED displays used in cell phones. As the technology matures it will be used for full-color screens.

Cambridge Display is taking on U.S. photo giant Eastman Kodak Co., which is one of the pioneers of OLEDs. The Cambridge University spinoff claims to have found a more efficient production method, which effectively prints a special type of OLED on a surface.

The market for OLEDs is expected to rise from just $85 million this year to $3 billion by 2007, according to a recent survey by U.S. market research group DisplaySearch.

Hopes for the technology are high because polymers that emit light do not require a backlight used for the current generation of flat-screen liquid crystal displays (LCDs). It makes them energy efficient and much thinner -- so thin they can be folded.

Opsys, spun out of Oxford and St. Andrews universities in 1997, uses polymers called dendrimers, which are brighter and more energy efficient than Cambridge Display's light-emitting polymers. The two companies hope to blend their technologies to improve the life span of the dendrimers.

Cambridge Display Chief Executive David Fyfe said he expected that by 2005 the technology would be mature enough, and the price per display competitive enough, that OLEDs would start replacing LCD full-color flat screens, which recently started replacing 70-year-old cathode ray tube technology.

"The attraction is that [OLEDs] are much more energy efficient. It doesn't generate as much heat, and the light goes only in one direction," he said.

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