Researchers from the University of Cambridge (UK) and Jilin University (China) published a new paper in the journal Nature describing their apparent breakthrough in the efficiency of red OLED subpixels.
The technique involves using “radicals” – semiconducting molecules with unpaired electrons. According to the paper, a quantum physics property of these radicals (their ‘spin’) causes them to form an electronic state which allows them to avoid a typical quantum mechanical limitation which previously limited OLED efficiency. The result is near perfect efficiency.
Breakthroughs in display technology efficacy are important for standalone VR because the highest energy draining component in such a headset is the display panel(s). When transmitting data (such as downloading an app or using social VR) the WiFi chip will be in second place, but the margin is still wide.
Display panels use red, green, and blue subpixels to create the range of colors they can display. The researchers here only managed to get this technique working for red OLEDs so far, and specifically mention that it is unlikely to work for blue. Green is not mentioned. Future research will likely try to find a way to replicate the effect in green and then blue.
Another promising future technology which could bring even greater reductions in panel power consumption is of course microLED. MicroLED is a display technology distinct from LCD or OLED which could offer up to 50 percent lower power consumption than OLED. Facebook, Samsung, Sony, Apple and others are investing in microLED research, but none have come up with a way to affordably manufacture them yet.