a guest post by Lisa J. Reed, Lighting Designer


What is OLED technology? It has been used in phones since as far back as 2001, and now it is becoming a popular TV flat screen option. What does it have to do with lighting? It very well could become the next great diffuse ambient light source.

OLED, or Organic LED is a type of solid-state lighting. Like LED, instead of a filament or an arc tube it uses light-emitting diodes to create light. The technology is similar, so some LED advantages are apparent in OLEDs as well. They are a low heat, high efficacy source of light. The layers that make up an OLED are composed of organic compounds, so that’s why they are known as “Organic” LEDs.

The most obvious difference between an OLED and an LED is the form factor. OLED is a thin glowing sheet instead of a point source. Instead of a very intense point of light, OLED emits a soft, comfortable glow. This makes it a non-glare option. Its soft glow is available in a variety of color temperatures, and it is almost perfectly uniform in appearance.

One of the characteristics of OLED technology that I find intriguing is that an OLED can be built to be flexible. These ultra-thin sheets of light can be bent or rolled in their natural state. Today’s commercially available products are mounted to solid-backed surfaces, making a rigid fixture, but flexibility is possible with a different backing material. Can you imagine window shades that roll up during the day, but at night you pull them down and turn them on for a light source?

OLED photo credit LG Chem photo credit LG Chem

Today, OLEDs are produced in 4” or 6” square, hexagonal, or octagonal sheets, but they can technically be any shape. The larger the panel, the higher the cost. OLED luminaire manufacturers are designing fixtures to use groupings of OLED panels.

What are the barriers to OLED adoption? The biggest issue is price. Current OLED manufacturers are working to drive the cost down while simultaneously increasing efficiency. The US Department of Energy funds research and development by American entities such as Pixelligent Technologies, OLEDWorks, Princeton University, and UCLA.

What do you think? Where could you use an OLED light source? Where would the cost need to be for practical applications?

Lisa J Reed photo - Lighting Blog

Lisa J. Reed has been attracted to lighting (like a moth to a flame) for 20+ years. She is the Founding Principal at Envision Lighting Design, LLC in St. Louis, where she designs, teaches, and writes about architectural lighting.


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