We at Alcon Lighting have taken a particular liking to the next revolution in lighting technology. “Researching for the next stage of LEDs, we stumbled upon Organic LEDs, a lighting technology that is being advocated as an architectural lighting game-changer,” says Jake Hakimi, director of Sales for Alcon Lighting. That technology is the organic light-emitting diode (OLED). OLEDs are solid-state devices composed of thin films of organic molecules that create light with the application of electricity. OLEDs provide brighter, sharper displays for on various electronic devices, and consume less power than traditional LEDs or LCDs.
The OLEDs are millimeters thin and have the ability to emit the whole color spectrum. With recent advances, it is looking like OLEDs have the potential to move beyond consumer electronics and displays, and into architecture and lighting. Because of their small width, flexibility and transparent components, OLEDs have the latent ability to act as walls or windows that can transform into light sources. “Instead of the environment having to accept the lighting, the lighting fits into the environment,” states Barry Young, managing director of the OLED association. OLED can prospectively change how light and architecture will be experienced. Alcon Lighting, has decided to put OLEDs on display at their Los Angeles showroom. “We strive to keep current with the latest trends in energy efficient lighting and we’ve decided to put OLEDs on display to show our customers what’s coming up in the industry,” says David Hakimi, Co-Director of sales at Alcon Lighting.
Compared to a standard LED (with which light is emitted from a single point), OLED light is diffused over its surface area. A typical OLED is composed of an emissive layer, a conductive layer, a substrate, and both anode and cathode terminals. The layers are made of organic molecules that conduct electricity. These layers of organic semiconductor material are formed between two electrodes. Generally, at least one of these electrodes is transparent. The layers have conductivity levels ranging from insulators to conductors, so OLEDs are considered organic semiconductors. When voltage is is applied, these layers conduct the electricity and begin to glow.
In terms of energy efficiency, current OLEDs have an energy output of approximately 25 lumens per watt – compared to an average of 17 lumens per watt of traditional incandescent lights. OLEDs offer many advantages over both LCDS and LEDs. Compared to the crystalline layers in an LED or LCD – the plastic, organic layers of an OLED are thinner, lighter and more flexible. Being that the OLED substrates are made of plastic, they can be more pliable and less rigid than the glass used by LEDs and LCDS. OLEDs have the ability to generate light themselves, and because they do not require backlighting they consume much less power than your typical LCD. Also, unlike LCDs which work by blocking light, the self-produced light of OLEDs offers a much wider viewing range. Production-wise, OLEDs are easier to manufacture and because of their plastic-based materials they can be made to larger sizes.
OLED’s architectural application includes use in various light housings and sources for general space illumination, as well as large-area light-emitting elements. Compared to inorganic solid-state LEDs (designed for point-light applications and sources), OLEDs characteristically emit less light per unit area – making them preferable where copious amounts of light are desired. Future developments of OLED will see higher, more compatible outlets, so that they will be able to compete as sustainable products. OLED Association’s Young also noted (and Cornell research has reaffirmed), “There is even hope that the technology can be used as a power source. OLEDs opterate by converting electrical energy into light, but if you think about reversing that, you can convert light to energy.”