Mark E. Thompson
The pioneering achievements of Ching W. Tang, Stephen R. Forrest, and Mark Thompson in developing, advancing, and commercializing light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) have created a multibillion-dollar industry for advanced lighting and display applications. OLED technology features a series of thin light-emitting fields to provide brighter light but with less energy compared to traditional LED bulbs and liquid-crystal displays (LCDs). It was the groundbreaking discoveries of Tang during the late 1970s that thin-film devices could emit light when a forward voltage was applied that demonstrated the potential of OLED technology and spurred a new field focused on developing organic optoelectronic devices. He created the organic heterojunction, implemented the double-layer structure for enhancing the efficiency of electron hole recombination, developed new approaches for efficient electrodes, and discovered important emitter materials. Based on Tang’s accomplishments, the first full-color active matrix OLED displays were commercialized.
Building on Tang’s OLED foundations, Forrest and Thompson took the technology to the next level by recognizing that OLED efficiency was being limited by the spin of excited states. They introduced iridium-based phosphorescent dyes that increased internal OLED efficiency from 25% to near 100% and enabled OLEDs to compete with LCDs. To overcome the belief that OLEDs would never be stable enough for use in commercial electronic devices, Universal Display Corporation (UDC) was founded to tackle OLED performance and stability issues. With UDC, Forrest and Thompson engineered electron and hole balance in the emissive layer using multiple new “guest and host” materials in conjunction with new device design and demonstrated high-efficiency red and green OLEDs with less than 5% degradation over multiple years of continuous use at display brightness. Their work fueled the launch of today’s multibillion-dollar OLED industry that provides the display technologies dominating mobile electronic appliances and large-screen, high-definition televisions.
A U.S. National Academy of Inventors Fellow and recipient of the Alexander von Humboldt Research Award (2015), Thompson holds the Ray R. Irani Chair of Chemistry, Materials Science, and Chemical Engineering at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, USA.