Hanging a television on the wall is nice. Even better is sticking it on, like wallpaper. The first organic light-emitting diode TV isn’t that thin, but at three millimeters, it’s close. (Sony has prototypes that are one tenth as thick.) It also produces stunning colors and the highest contrast possible—from brilliant white to pitch-black.
OLEDs have long promised these results, while presenting plenty of challenges. The achievement of taking OLED from a lab experiment to a consumer product is the top innovation of the year.
It took clever engineering. To optimize color, for instance, Sony placed the OLED in microscopic troughs sized to match specific wavelengths of light. So the red part of each pixel sits in a cavity that allows only the ideal shade of red to escape.
Why did a giant technology advance appear in an 11-inch screen? OLED circuitry requires a type of glass that isn’t produced in large sizes, and applying the material to bigger sheets requires new techniques. Retooling factories will cost a fortune. But companies will spend big money if they see a big market, and selling a real OLED TV, even a small one, has fired up demand. Sony promises 27-inch models soon. You could see sets of 32 inches or more, from several companies, by 2011.
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