July 14, 2009
| by Lisa Montgomery
Lights fixtures as we know them may be ancient history, if and when organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) hit the home scene. GE, one of the leaders in the development of OLED technology, recently collaborated with industrial design students from the Cleveland Institute of Art (CIA) to develop conceptual lighting products for the home.
Many of their designs took advantage of OLED’s two key attributes that commercialized GE OLEDs are expected to feature: flexibility and thinness. Unlike light sources today, OLEDs are bendable and no thicker than a sheet of paper, which allows them to be molded into unique shapes and sizes, take up less space than conventional lighting sources, and require no covering up by a decorative fixture.
One of the most innovative ideas that surfaced from the hundreds of concepts delivered by the students, says Gustino Lanese, manager of growth initiative, GE Lighting, was light-up wallpaper. Applied to the wall the paper-thin sheets illuminate, precluding the need for a traditional nightstand lamp or overhead light fixture in a bedroom, for example. It’s a great space-saver, “but the exact execution of a product like this leaves us with a lot of questions,” says Lanese.
A more promising concept, according to Lanese, is a portable, free-form lamp. Minus the shade found on traditional desk lamps, the OLED lamp looks modern and chic, twisted in the shape of a wave. Under-cabinet lighting is another application that will probably make its way into the home market first.
Still, GE has a long way to go before it introduces OLED products to the mainstream market. “There are still many technical hurdles to overcome,” says Lanese, “like improving the lifetime of the OLEDs.” GE projects its first commercialized OLED products will be introduced in 2011.
Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.