Confined to flat panel display conferences and shows until now, organic electroluminescence displays made an appearance at CeBit as industry buzz surrounding the new displays continues to build.

OELDs contain an organic layer (a blend of plastics called polyimides) that glows brightly when power is applied, so a large, power-guzzling backlight is not needed.

This means displays can be made smaller and batteries in portable products last longer. Very wide viewing angles, high contrast and good colour reproduction give them even more of an edge over current LCDs.

These advantages have led a number of industry heavyweights from Sony to Samsung to research the technology. Some predict OELDs could eventually replace current TFT LCDs. Kodak and Sanyo are both pushing the technology at CeBit, as are a handful of other companies that have licensing agreements from the two.

Leslie Polgar, president of Kodak Display Products, said the firm plans full production of active-matrix OELDs by summer 2002. Active matrix displays (a technology used in TFT LCDs) offer superior image quality.

When Kodak starts OELD production next year, it will be making screens for mobile phones and personal digital assistants. Larger screens, such as monitors, are planned for 2003 and beyond.

But engineers have a lot of work to complete before the colour active-matrix technology can be commercialised, both on the OELD and production equipment sides of the equation. Current monochrome displays have a life of between 6,000 and 10,000 hours. For colour displays it is much less.

In illustration of this, a Pioneer OELD display debuted at a show in Berlin last year had a lifespan of just four days and burned out soon after the show was over.