Phone Screens Could Use Less Power

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New technology could significantly reduce power that phone and other gadget screens consumer. It could also reduce the risk of screens being damaged by images "burning in."

The technology is for OLED (organic light-emitting diode) screens which are now common in smartphones and other displays. In simple terms, the pixels in an OLED screen light themselves, whereas regular LED screens need a backlight behind the display.

The main advantages are less power use and a thinner screen. The biggest drawback is a likely shorter lifespan, though that doesn't necessarily play a factor in devices such as smartphones where other components may fail first or where users may replace the device while it's still functional.

'Annihilation' At Heart Of Design

Researchers at the National Institute for Molecular Science and the University of Toyoma, have redesigned the structure of OLED screens to work at a lower voltage, boosting the low-power benefits.

According to the researchers, the new design works more efficiently because it uses "upconversion (UC) transition associated with triplet-triplet annihilation that doubles the energy of excited states." (Source:

While few people will even pretend to know what that means, the results are simpler to understand: in tests, the display worked at 1.5 volts compared with 4.5 volts for the same screen with the OLED design commonly used today.

Brighter Displays May Limit Benefits

How much benefit real-world phones will actually get remains to be seen. The main testing used displays operating at a brightness of 100 nits, also known as candela per square meter, a standard unit of brightness. Follow-up tests at 177 nits showed the technology still worked, though it required a slightly higher voltage. (Source:

Budget smartphones usually have a display with a brightness of a few hundred nits, with top-end handsets breaking the 1,000 nit mark. That means it's likely the power-saving would be lower in real phone displays, with the question being how much of the potential benefits can be realized.

Another benefit is that the lower voltage will reduce the heat of the display and its power source. That could reduce the risk of either image retention (temporary) or burn-in (permanent) where part of display is permanently set.

What's Your Opinion?

Do you think screen use plays a big role in the power consumption on your phone? Is video a key part of your phone use? Have you ever worried about burn-in on a display?

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