How Do Transparent OLEDs Work?

transparent oled

How Do Transparent OLEDs Work?

CES showcases a lot of emerging and developing technologies. LG’s showcase this year debuted a smattering of new televisions and displays. None of them were quite as exciting as the LG OLED T, a fully transparent television.

It works like your typical television, but when powered off, it allows users to see whatever is behind the television itself. How does such a display work? Let’s take a look at the technologies behind transparent OLEDs, which manufacturers are driving development, and when you can expect to buy one for your home.

Transparent OLEDs: The Tech Behind It

Transparent OLEDs aren’t a new phenomenon. LG‘s take on the technology is a refinement and further development of a concept once relegated to transparent displays and signage. The OLED T operates upon similar principles.

transparent oled
The basic OLED cell structure consists of a stack of 8 thin organic layers.

OLED is short for organic light-emitting diodes, and there are a few key components that comprise how they work. An OLED display is sandwiched layers of semiconductors that emit light when receiving current.

In order for the picture to display, at least one of the layers has to be transparent. Most typical uses of OLEDs require the light to be emitted only from one side of the display, using more opaque materials to serve as the substrate instead.

A transparent OLED operates under the same exact principles, but the materials utilized have changed. Rather than needing a single transparent layer to emit light, all layers are transparent. Light is subsequently emitted through both sides of the display and, when powered off, can be nearly completely transparent.

The end result is like having a pane of glass that doubles as your television or computer monitor. It isn’t an element that has to be designed and accounted for in spaces but, rather, can be seamlessly integrated without being a focal point.

Transparent OLEDs: Who’s Developing It?

Transparent OLEDs have existed conceptually since 2013 or so, with purchasable samples of the tech offered. It was mostly relegated to signage. It provides a more economically sound alternative to other forms of lighted signs and displays for branding.

LG has been one of the driving forces behind the further development of transparent OLEDs. This makes sense given their showing at CES 2023. LG has been the only manufacturer leveraging the tech and further refining it.

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LG’s transparent OLEDs are said to blend the boundaries between the screen and reality.

LG’s developments have been previously relegated to more high-concept workspaces and architectural designs. Their showcase of a transparent television is a pivot from massive displays intended for office buildings, airports, and other industrial installations. Moving this technology to households poses interesting possibilities, especially for those designing living spaces.

Previous installations have made the integration of transparent OLEDs part of the design of a space. They aren’t the primary focal point but, instead, become just part of the environment. Some of the developed uses have seen them seamlessly blended into spaces. They can act as a high-tech display that isn’t an eyesore.

Transparent OLEDs: When Can They Be Purchased?

Those looking to get one of these cutting-edge displays in their own home might be sorely disappointed. While LG presented a massive showcase of their new line of televisions and displays, the LG OLED T isn’t a production model by any means. Instead, it’s just a concept, a reminder of where LG is pushing its own research and development.

It is difficult to speculate on the pricing and availability of a transparent OLED television from LG. While they showcased the tech themselves at CES 2023, there was nothing to indicate from their press releases or presentation that they would be committing to a full production run of these displays.

Now, this isn’t anything out of the ordinary for CES. While there are certain companies that go to showcase upcoming items and devices, it also functions as a place to debut new concepts which might never go beyond the drawing board.

Going off pure speculation, one can imagine that these would be cost-prohibitive compared to more typical televisions. They could easily and understandably be priced in a range similar to the range of 8K displays that LG is producing. It would be intended for those with deep pockets who only want the bleeding edge of technology for their home.

With no production time or release dates stated, it is only up to speculation, however. Hopefully, LG is able to release more details about an upcoming display in the coming months after CES 2023.

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Transparent OLED TVs could provide a


unsurpassed display for consumers.

Transparent OLED TVs in the News

Since CES 2023 in February, LG has released a few updates regarding their transparent OLED prototype. Firstly, the prototype is set to begin mass production possibly in the second half of this year. And second, LG will be partnering with Microsoft to develop new technological features for the LG transparent OLED TV.

The Future of LG’s Transparent OLED TV

As LG continues to work on their prototype for the LG OLED T, we can expect to get even more updates. In the following six to 18 months, we could see the following:

  • Better image quality possibly through use of mini LEDs or quantum dots.
  • An announcement on the price of the TV and when it will be on the market.
  • New features for a better user experience through their partnership with Microsoft.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are there any production transparent OLED televisions in production?

At the time of this writing, there is nothing concrete about the development or release date of any transparent displays for consumers. Currently, LG being the sole manufacturer of transparent OLEDs means that the ball is fully in their court.

What might be holding back full release dates is a consideration of economics. LG has been providing transparent displays to rail stations and businesses across Asia over the last 3 to 4 years, but those businesses have much deeper resources to pull from when implementing new technology. Further, when a location like a rail station integrates new displays, it is intended as a functional portion of the design of the terminals.

Are OLEDs better than LED or LCD displays?

OLEDs are more energy-efficient than LED displays, and they don’t require external light sources to function like an LCD. This is in part thanks to their construction, which can create larger displays while also using fewer materials overall. Thanks to the display itself providing its own light source, it doesn’t rely on external light to effectively convey images or video.

What is the benefit of a transparent display?

A transparent display allows designers for both industrial and home applications to design a space where the visibility of a screen isn’t paramount. With a transparent display, designers and architects alike can integrate the panels directly into their designs. Since it isn’t the focal point it can allow for more subdued design work, without having to deal with integrating the appropriate mounts and cabling to integrate into the space.

For railways, airports, and other locations this means visitors have the ability to see departures, the weather, or anything else while still being able to enjoy the view or engage in the space. For homes, this means the television doesn’t have to be the main draw to a living space but rather becomes a more seamless part of the design. Its placement in a living room could coincide with windows or other views leading out of the home.

Are there any other applications for OLEDs?

OLEDs as a display medium enable a few different implementations. More typical uses you’ll likely see in the form of modern televisions and computer monitors, these do help to have vibrant colors and brighter whites due to their physical design and manufacturing process.

Using more flexible materials enables foldable displays, which have been seen on the market recently with smartphones. Previously, a full touchscreen device that could fold was seen as nothing more than a pipe dream. Manufacturers using more flexible materials can have a foldable display while maintaining a bright and vibrant display.

Are any other manufacturers producing transparent displays?

Transparent OLEDs have been LG’s specialty for some time now. While other manufacturers are able to leverage OLEDs into a variety of displays, none are pursuing transparent displays. LG has been the predominant force towards the development and further refinement of transparent OLEDs, so their showcasing of a transparent television is just a natural evolution and refinement of their current technological trajectory.

What makes LG’s CES 2023 presentation unique is less the presentation of a transparent OLED display, and more it being one intended for consumers to purchase and place in their homes. Unfortunately, there seems to be nothing concrete beyond its functionality, with zero pricing and availability for a potential production model.

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