|Merck's OLED materials production facility in Gyeonggi Province / Courtesy of Merck Korea|
The company said it had started mass production of hole transport materials (HTMs) to be applied to HTM and electron-blocking layers for OLED panels used in LG's premium consumer devices.
"The company has been reliably supplying HTMs for large OLED panels to LG Display. Merck will now expand its HTM mass production to mobile panels for the premium OLED smartphone market segment where LG Display has been active since 2019," Merck said, adding the company expects its materials will be used in products to be released this year. LG supplies displays to other mobile phone manufacturers after exiting the sector earlier this year.
The hole transport layer transports electro holes generated between conductive electrodes on a glass substrate or a flexible film substrate. The electron-blocking layer is also one of the common layers and confines electrons within the emissive layer.
Merck said its OLED materials are applied to both layers and contribute to improving panel efficiency and lifespan by optimally maintaining the transport of electrons and blocking electron holes.
Wookyu Kim, managing director of Merck Korea, emphasized the company has been cooperating closely with the Korean display firm to create a win-win situation for both sides.
"Korea is leading the global OLED market. Merck is investing substantial resources required to enable Korean panel makers to lead the OLED market," Kim said in a statement.
"Since Merck opened the Korea OLED R&D center in 2011, the R&D facilities, manpower and OLED production facility have been continuously reinforcing short-distance services to Korean panel makers and making it possible to respond quickly with the highest-quality materials produced in Korea. The expanded application of this material has laid the foundation for even closer cooperation with Korean OLED panel makers in the future," the managing director added.
With more OLEDs being used in mobile devices, LG Display is expected to see a rise in demand for its flexible panels. According to data by market tracker Display Supply Chain Consultants, the number of LG Display's flexible OLED panels for smartphones was 31.7 million in 2020, a sharp increase from 9.7 million in 2019. The figure is estimated to grow to 52.7 million this year.
Merck started its OLED and organic materials businesses in 2005, opening a research center for OLED synthesis and material development in 2011 and an OLED application center in 2014.
In 2020, Merck announced the investment of an additional 25 billion won ($21.7 million) to establish a next-generation OLED materials manufacturing facility at the Poseung National Industrial Complex in Pyeongtaek, south of Seoul.
The company said the investment will enable a new modular production system that makes it possible to increase OLED materials output. This, in turn, will contribute to the development of a reliable supply of materials for cutting-edge display panels pursued by Korean panel makers, Merck added.