OLED Lighting Dream
This light source could be flexible, transparent and solar-powered.
November 29, 2007 by Steven Castle

My last blog entry, “More R&D for OLED” discussed the potential for OLED (organic light emitting diode) lighting to enter the home market in the next two years.

Is there a real possibility of that? Sure, especially in the high-end specialty and architectural lighting markets. Konica Minolta, for one, has been accelerating its efforts to enable commercial manufacturing of white OLED devices for backlights in displays and for other lighting applications. Reportedly, the company also has discussed the potential for introducing white lighting products into the marketplace by 2010.

However, odds are that the OLED lighting devices we see in two years, at about 40 to 60 lumens per watt (comparable with CFLs) won’t be near as efficient as a second generation of products that could achieve 150 to 200 lumens per watt.

And no, you probably won’t see flexible OLED lighting in the next couple of years. But that’s being worked on as well. Universal Display Corporation is developing its flexible and transparent OLED technologies, which could be used in a variety of ways. According to the company, flexible OLEDs may be integrated into furniture, worn in clothing, and employed in ways yet to be envisioned. And transparent OLEDS could be used in windows that allow light in during the day, but light up at night. Transparent OLEDS could also be used for teleconferencing purposes, and automotive windshields for navigation and warning systems—and don’t forget home entertainment. You can be sure that the audio/video industry will find a use for them.

The sizes of OLEDs will get bigger as well. “You can create an OLED someday that’s two, four, five feet in size,” says Janice Mahon, vice president of technology commercialization at Universal Display Corp. But flexible big screen TVs? That’s probably more than a few years away, she says.

OLEDs could also increase in energy efficiency, with the help of the sun. An EE Times Asia article reports that researchers are looking to combine OLEDs with solar cells. “Scientists at National Taiwan University have positioned solar cells behind OLEDs to provide a contrast superior to that achieved with polarizers, while recycling energy that would otherwise be wasted.

“The scientists reported that placing a solar cell in the back of the OLED absorbed the incident light and internal OLED emission, and then converted the light to electrical power for reuse as a photovoltaic device,” says the report.

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Steven Castle - Contributing Writer
Steven Castle is Electronic House's managing editor. he has been writing about consumer electronics, homes and energy efficiency topics for two decades. He is also the co-founder of GreenTech Advocates.

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