OLED’s are taking the spotlight from its lighting counterparts

1st October 2010

The Economist recently highlighted the developments of the lighting industry since when Thomas Edison perfected the incandescent light bulb in 1879. Incandescent bulbs are likely to have a low retail price but only burn for roughly 1000 hours. Compact florescent lights (CFLs) cost around £2 however the extra cost gives you a bulb that will last much longer and uses 75% less power. Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) cost more than CFLs but are even more efficient. Osram recently launched the Parathion Classic, a LED bulb shaped like a conventional 60 Watt light bulb. It uses 90% less power than the incandescent bulb and has an average life of 25,000 hours, it is currently on sale in for around £40. But Phillips has produced a new source of lighting to take the spotlight, organic light-emitting diodes.

Phillips’ OLEDs that are still in the laboratory stage can be powered directly from the mains electricity supply, this is a breakthrough in the lighting industry. This will mean that electronics and transformers will no longer have to be used which should bring down costs and simplify design and allow them to be more versatile. OLED’s will have a different role to all presently available lighting options.

OLEDs are similar to LEDs but are made from layers of organic material which light up when a charge is applied to them. The charge needs to be low-voltage direct-current source, like batteries but now OLEDs will also work with alternating higher-powered currents delivered over the mains. OLEDs are mainly used in products like mobile phones but there are a number of versions of lighting products on the market.

OLEDs are able to be extremely thin and flexible this is why their use in lighting will be different.Dr Dietrich Bertram of Phillips explained that OLED light could be made into the material which forms the shade of the lamp itself, CFLs and LEDs only simply replace the bulb in the lamp as a single bright point of light. This development means that OLED panels could form part of the ceiling or walls instead of traditional lighting methods. Transparent OLEDs even mean that they could be placed in windows.

It is expected that when they are released commercially which Dr Bertram is hopeful will be in the next few years they will be relatively expensive at first because they will be sold as part of a product i.e. a lamp rather than a bulb. Dr Bertram adds they will be efficient and capable of producing a spectrum of light similar to natural daylight with an operating life of around 10,000 hours.

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