Organic light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are potentially attractive for applications because they are easy to process and can emit over the full visible spectrum. Light emission from organic materials relies on electrons and "holes" combining to form excited states called "excitons" that subsequently emit photons when they decay.

A typical LED contains a thin light-emitting layer sandwiched between layers that transport the holes and the electrons. One way of improving the performance of organic LEDs is to increase the mobility of the holes in the hole-transport layer by adding a dopant. This should lead to more holes combining with electrons in the device.

Jun Yeob Lee and Jang Hyuk Kwon at Samsung’s Corporate R&D Center in Yong-In City studied the effect of carbon-60 doping in phosphorescent devices that rely on an organic material called "TDAPB" as the hole-transport layer. Lee and Kwon varied the concentration of carbon-60 in the TDAPB from 0 to 3% while measuring the properties of the device with a spectrophotometer.

They found that the mobility of holes in devices doped with 3% carbon-60 was five times higher than that of pure TDAPB. The current density also increased by a factor of three, and there was a 30% increase in the luminance of the LED.

Doping with 3% carbon-60 also increased the lifetime from 700 hours for the undoped device to 1400 hours. Carbon-60 is an electron acceptor that protects the TDAPB from being "attacked" by excess electrons ejected from the light-emitting layer.

The team says the lifetime can be improved and now plans to optimise the device. The minimum lifetime for real-world applications is 5000 hours.