The Japanese government said Thursday it will support Sony Corp., Sharp Corp. and other domestic companies in joint development of super-thin TVs based on organic light-emitting diodes.

The group will aim to develop a 40-inch OLED display sometime after 2015, the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization, or NEDO, said in a statement. NEDO is a Japan government agency that promotes research into new technologies.

OLEDs use light-emitting organic compounds similar to those found in fireflies. TVs using OLEDs don't require a backlight and can be made thinner than those based on traditional liquid crystal or plasma displays.

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The technology is still young, but Japanese manufacturers are eager to get the jump on South Korean TV heavyweights such as Samsung Electronics Co. and LG Display Co.

Last year Sony introduced the first OLED TV for the commercial market — an 11-inch TV with a screen just 3 millimeters (0.12 inches) thick. The TV went on sale at roughly 10 times the price of comparable LCD models.

Sony is working to mass produce a 20-inch model by next year and has pegged the technology as a key to regaining its elite status as an electronics innovator. The company will now work with some of its biggest rivals in development, but spokesman Chisato Kitsukawa said it will keep advanced technologies in-house.

Kitsukawa said Sony was keen to work with component makers and companies that will produce manufacturing equipment.

"OLED TVs won't take off if we don't foster an infrastructure like the one that exists for LCDs," he said.

Sharp is taking a longer view on OLED TVs and has no fixed plans for commercial production. The company has invested heavily in LCD manufacturing and believes it will remain the dominant technology for at least the next 10 years, spokeswoman Miyuki Nakayama said.

The joint research is to run from this year through March 2013. It will also focus on increasing the longevity and power efficiency of OLED TVs, as well as efficient manufacturing.

Other companies involved in the effort include Sumitomo Chemical Co. and Hitachi Zosen Corp.

While OLED technology is seen as a promising candidate to replace the current generation of plasma and LCD TVs, it is expensive, difficult to employ for large screens and fades faster than other TV technologies.

OLEDs are also used in smaller devices such as mobile phones and car navigation systems.