What are the Different Types of Organic LEDs and Inorganic LEDs?

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- GoPhotonics

Feb 28, 2024

Organic light-emitting diode (OLED) and Inorganic light-emitting diode (Inorganic LED) are two different types of LEDs. An OLED uses an organic compound film for its emissive electroluminescent layer, resulting in vibrant colors and deep blacks suitable for applications like televisions and smartphones. Inorganic LEDs rely on semiconductor materials, such as gallium nitride (GaN), for light emission, offering efficiency, durability, and versatility for a wide range of applications including electronic displays and lighting fixtures.

Organic Light-Emitting Diodes (OLEDs)

Organic Light-Emitting Diodes (OLEDs) represent a groundbreaking technology in the realm of display and lighting systems, offering vivid colors, high contrast ratios, and energy efficiency. One key aspect of OLEDs is the type of organic materials used in their construction, leading to the classification into two main types: Small Molecule OLEDs (SMOLEDs) and Polymer OLEDs (PLEDs).

  • Small Molecule OLEDs (SMOLEDs): SMOLEDs are OLEDs that uses small organic molecules as the emissive layer. These organic compounds are typically comprised of well-defined structures, allowing for precise control over the fabrication process. The emissive layer in SMOLEDs consists of organic molecules that emit light when an electric current is applied. Small molecules typically weigh 500-1200g/mol, which are much simpler and lighter compared to polymers. The production of small molecule OLEDs commonly involves an evaporation process, where these materials are heated for incorporation into display picture elements. Given that each RGB pixel necessitates a distinct material, a fine metal mask (FMM) is employed to deposit small molecules in specific display pixel areas. This type of OLED design is known for its efficiency and high image quality, making it a preferred choice in various applications, including high-end displays.

  • Polymer OLEDs (PLEDs): PLEDs are OLEDs that uses organic polymers as the emissive layer. Unlike small molecules, polymers are large, chain-like structures. This characteristic imparts flexibility to the material, enabling the creation of flexible and even rollable displays. PLEDs have the advantage of being potentially more cost-effective due to the ease of processing polymers over small molecules. This flexibility in design and potential cost benefits make PLEDs a promising technology for emerging applications like flexible displays and wearable electronics.

Comparison between Small Molecule OLEDs and Polymer OLEDs

Small Molecule OLED

Polymer OLED


Dry process (vacuum evaporation)

Wet process


Shadow mask



Complex layer structure

Simple layer structure


Separated function

Integration function

The choice between SMOLEDs and PLEDs depends on the specific requirements of the application. SMOLEDs excel in applications where precision and high image quality are paramount, such as in premium televisions and high-resolution displays. On the other hand, PLEDs offer versatility in form factor and cost-effectiveness, making them ideal for applications that demand flexibility, like foldable screens and wearable devices.

Subtypes of OLEDs:

  • Phosphorescent OLEDs (PHOLEDs): These are a type of organic light-emitting diode (OLED) that use the principle of phosphorescence to obtain higher internal efficiencies than fluorescent OLEDs. Like all types of OLED, phosphorescent OLEDs emit light due to the electroluminescence of an organic semiconductor layer in an electric current. Electrons and holes are injected into the organic layer at the electrodes and form excitons, a bound state of the electron and hole. Phosphorescent OLEDs generate light from both triplet and singlet excitons, allowing the internal quantum efficiency of such devices to reach nearly 100%. These OLEDs use phosphorescent organic materials, which can potentially achieve higher efficiency compared to traditional fluorescent OLEDs.
  • Fluorescent OLEDs (FLOLEDs): Fluorescent OLEDs (FLOLEDs) are a subtype of Organic Light-Emitting Diodes (OLEDs) that use fluorescent organic materials in the emissive layer. The emissive layer is a key component of an OLED device responsible for emitting light when an electric current is applied. While fluorescent OLEDs are generally less efficient compared to phosphorescent OLEDs (PHOLEDs), they are still capable of producing vibrant colors in the visible spectrum.
  • Tandem OLEDs: These devices  represent an advanced OLED architecture designed to enhance efficiency and improve color reproduction in display technology. Unlike traditional OLEDs with a single emissive layer, tandem OLEDs incorporate multiple stacked OLED layers, each emitting a different color. This stacking of OLED layers allows for a more efficient utilization of light and broader color gamuts. Each OLED layer in a tandem structure emits a specific color of light. By stacking different colors on top of each other, tandem OLEDs can create a full-color spectrum. Tandem OLEDs aim to optimize the balance of charge carriers (electrons and holes) across the multiple layers, improving overall device efficiency.
  • White OLEDs (WOLEDs): White Organic Light-Emitting Diodes (WOLEDs) are a specialized type of OLED technology designed to emit white light. Unlike traditional OLEDs that emit specific colors, WOLEDs are engineered to produce a broad spectrum of visible light, resulting in a white illumination. OLEDs that emit white light, often achieved by combining emissions from multiple colored OLED layers or through the use of phosphorescent materials. One common approach in WOLEDs involves the use of multiple emissive layers, each emitting a primary color (red, green, and blue). The combination of these primary colors results in white light when they are superimposed. nother approach utilizes phosphorescent materials that can emit light across a broad spectrum when excited. By controlling the properties of these materials, WOLEDs can achieve a white light output.
  • Stacked OLEDs: Stacked Organic Light-Emitting Diodes (OLEDs) refer to OLED devices that incorporate multiple OLED layers stacked on top of each other. This stacked architecture serves various purposes, including enhancing performance, achieving specific functionalities, and optimizing overall device efficiency.  Each OLED layer in a stacked configuration may have a distinct purpose. For example, one layer may be optimized for blue light emission, while another may emit red or green light. Stacking different colored OLED layers allows for the creation of full-color displays. The combined emission from these layers produces a wide range of colors. Stacking OLED layers can enhance the overall performance of the device, including brightness, color accuracy, and efficiency. Each layer can be engineered to address specific aspects of performance.
  • Printed OLEDs: These OLEDs are manufactured using printing techniques, which can potentially reduce production costs and enable large-area, flexible displays. This method holds the promise of reducing production costs and enabling large-area, flexible displays. Uses tiny droplets of OLED materials, allowing for precise and controlled deposition. Utilizes engraved cylinders to transfer OLED inks onto the substrate, enabling high-speed production. Similar to gravure printing but uses flexible plates for ink transfer, suitable for large-scale production. Involves forcing ink through a stencil onto the substrate, suitable for simple and cost-effective processes.

Inorganic LEDs:

Inorganic LEDs, also known as light-emitting diodes, are made from crystalline semiconductors. By adjusting the material composition, the optical emission wavelength can be selected. Examples include germanium, gallium arsenide, gallium nitride, and indium phosphide.

  • Gallium Nitride (GaN) LEDs: Gallium Nitride (GaN) LEDs are a type of light-emitting diode that uses gallium nitride as the semiconductor material. The LED structure consists of a positive or "p-type" layer, typically made of materials like magnesium-doped GaN, and a negative or "n-type" layer, often composed of silicon-doped GaN. These GaN LEDs are typically manufactured through epitaxial growth, involving the deposition of thin layers of GaN semiconductor material onto a substrate. The bandgap of gallium nitride enables the production of light in the visible and ultraviolet regions of the spectrum. The specific color of light emitted by GaN LEDs can be tuned by adjusting the composition and doping of the gallium nitride material. GaN-based LEDs are widely used in various applications, including general lighting and displays. Blue and green LEDs are commonly made using GaN.
  • Aluminum Indium Gallium Phosphide (AlInGaP) LEDs: Aluminum Indium Gallium Phosphide (AlInGaP) LEDs are Inorganic LEDs composed of a substrate, typically gallium arsenide (GaAs) or sapphire, supporting multiple layers including N-type and P-type layers, and an active layer made of the AlInGaP compound. When a voltage is applied, electron-hole pairs are injected into the active layer. Recombination of electrons and holes within this layer releases energy in the form of photons, producing light emission in the red to yellow range. Metal contacts facilitate electrical current flow to complete the LED circuit. AlInGaP LEDs are often used for red, orange, and amber emissions. They find applications in traffic signals, automotive lighting, and certain types of displays.
  • Indium Gallium Nitride (InGaN) LEDs: Indium Gallium Nitride (InGaN) LEDs are semiconductor devices consisting of layers of indium, gallium, and nitrogen compounds deposited on a substrate, typically sapphire or silicon carbide. When a forward voltage is applied, electrons and holes are injected into the active region of the LED. InGaN LEDs cover a broad range of colors, including blue, green, and violet. Blue InGaN LEDs are crucial for creating white light in combination with phosphor coatings. The recombination of electrons and holes within the active region generates photons, producing the characteristic emission of the LED. These LEDs are widely used in various applications, including solid-state lighting, display technology, and automotive lighting, owing to their efficiency, brightness, and color versatility.
  • Organic-Inorganic Hybrid LEDs: Organic-Inorganic Hybrid LEDs, also known as hybrid perovskite LEDs (PeLEDs), are a type of light-emitting diode that combines organic and inorganic materials to achieve efficient light emission. These LEDs utilize organic materials, such as organic semiconductors or polymers, along with inorganic perovskite compounds. The organic component typically serves as the hole transport layer, while the inorganic perovskite layer acts as the emissive layer. When a voltage is applied, electrons and holes are injected into the device, where they recombine within the perovskite layer, emitting light. Hybrid LEDs offer several advantages, including high efficiency, tunable emission colors, and low-cost fabrication methods. They have garnered significant attention for applications in display technology, lighting, and optoelectronic devices.
  • Quantum Dot LEDs (QLEDs): Quantum Dot LEDs (QLEDs) are a type of light-emitting diode that utilize quantum dots as the emissive material. Quantum dots are semiconductor nanoparticles typically made of cadmium selenide (CdSe) or similar materials, with sizes on the order of a few nanometers. In QLEDs, quantum dots are embedded within a matrix or placed as a thin film on a substrate. When excited by an electrical current or an external light source, quantum dots emit light with very precise wavelengths determined by their size, enabling tunable emission colors. QLEDs offer several advantages over traditional LEDs, including higher color purity, improved efficiency, and wider color gamut. They are commonly used in display technology, where their ability to produce vibrant and lifelike colors makes them ideal for applications such as televisions, monitors, and signage. Ongoing research aims to further optimize QLEDs for enhanced performance and broader commercial applications, including lighting and biomedical imaging.
  • Light Emitting Diode Phosphors:Light Emitting Diode (LED) phosphors are materials used to convert the wavelength of light emitted by LEDs to achieve specific color outputs. These phosphors absorb the energy from the primary light emission of the LED and re-emit it at a longer wavelength, resulting in a desired color output. Common types of LED phosphors include:
    • Yellow Phosphors: Used in combination with blue LEDs to produce white light. Yellow phosphors absorb blue light and emit yellow light, which combines with the residual blue light from the LED to create a white light spectrum.
    • Red and Green Phosphors: These phosphors are utilized in RGB (Red, Green, Blue) LED displays to produce a wide range of colors. Red and green phosphors absorb blue light emitted by the LED and re-emit it as red or green light, respectively.
    • Multi-Component Phosphors: Some phosphors are designed to emit light at multiple wavelengths, allowing for more precise color tuning and improved color rendering in LED lighting applications.

In certain applications, phosphors are used with LEDs to convert emitted light to different colors. This is common in white LED applications.

  • Ultraviolet (UV) LEDs:Ultraviolet (UV) LEDs are semiconductor devices that emit light in the ultraviolet spectrum, typically with wavelengths ranging from around 100 to 400 nanometers. These LEDs are engineered to produce UV light by using semiconductor materials that emit photons when excited by an electrical current. UV LEDs are classified into three main categories based on their emission wavelength:
    • UVA LEDs (315 nm - 400 nm): Emitting in the long-wave ultraviolet range, UVA LEDs are often used in applications such as curing, phototherapy, and counterfeit detection. They are also employed in some types of bug zappers and indoor gardening systems.
    • UVB LEDs (280 nm - 315 nm): Emitting in the medium-wave ultraviolet range, UVB LEDs find applications in medical and dermatological treatments, including phototherapy for skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema. They are also utilized in water and air purification systems for disinfection.
    • UVC LEDs (100 nm - 280 nm): Emitting in the short-wave ultraviolet range, UVC LEDs have powerful germicidal properties and are widely used for disinfection and sterilization purposes. They are employed in water purification systems, air sterilization units, and surface disinfection devices to kill bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens.

LEDs that emit ultraviolet light are used in applications such as sterilization, water purification, and curing processes in industries like printing and electronics manufacturing.

  • Micro-LEDs: Micro-LEDs are miniature LED devices that are typically inorganic. Micro-LEDs are a LEDs that utilizes tiny light-emitting diodes (LEDs) with dimensions typically on the scale of micrometers (µm). These miniature LEDs are much smaller than traditional LEDs, allowing for higher pixel densities and greater control over individual pixels in display panels. Micro-LED displays consist of an array of these tiny LEDs, with each LED acting as a pixel in the display. The structure of a micro-LED typically includes a semiconductor layer that emits light when an electric current passes through it, along with additional layers for electrical and optical control. They are being explored for use in high-resolution displays and other applications.

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