Shedding light on SolOLED: sustainable materials for OLED displays – and beyond  

Although we interact with them every day, many may not be familiar with what it is that lights up our screens. Organic light-emitting diodes, more widely known as OLEDs, illuminate the digital displays in products like mobile phones, smartwatches, and television screens. For this illumination to be possible, various chemical materials are involved – including luminescent dendrimers, light-emitting molecules that Professor Eli Zysman-Colman and his team at the School of Chemistry have been developing as emitters for use in OLEDs.  

Zysman-Colman is Professor of Optoelectronic Materials at St Andrews, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry and the CEO of SolOLED, a materials science company spun out from his group’s research. SolOLED has developed a new class of dendrimers that are a more sustainable, effective, and inexpensive alternative emitter material to existing options on the market. The dendrimers Zysman-Colman and his group have developed are strongly emissive and available across a range of colors, and when used in an OLED are able to efficiently harvest all the electrically generated excited states to produce light.  

Samples of SolOLED’s light-emitting solutions. Credit: SolOLED

Despite being in its early stages, SolOLED has already received funding from the EPSRC IAA, Scottish Enterprise, a Royal Academy of Engineering Enterprise Fellowship and is the first group from St Andrews to receive funding from CENSIS, a Scottish Innovation Centre for sensing, imaging and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies. The group were involved in the Matter Stream with Creative Destruction Lab, a prestigious non-profit organization that workshops massively scalable emerging science- and technology- based companies, and progressed to it’s second round. IAA and Scottish Enterprise funding, along with partnership building have enabled the beginnings of the spin out journey of SolOLED, and the team continues to work toward more support – particularly as the company’s ambition grows in scope.  

In the longer term, SolOLED plans to establish its base at the University’s Eden Campus, centering itself within the innovation and industrial connections being created from within the University and beyond. SolOLED’s potential for widespread commercial success serves as a model for an entrepreneurial and socially responsible initiative to drive us toward a more sustainable future.