“An OLED is a light source which produces diffuse light. It is very flat, very chic, very thin, and it emits very, very comfortable, soft light, and at the same time it is very energy efficient.”
Kristin Knappstein, a business development executive at Philips, explains the appeal of OLEDs, the newest form of lighting to emerge onto the market.
Here there are no bulbs, no filaments, and no neon gas, just ‘organic light emitting diodes’, a technology in which the whole surface of the object emits light.
The result has been described as being very ‘human’, giving off a kind of white glow that’s easy on the eye. It opens up new opportunities for designers.
Knappstein explains: “The OLED distributes diffuse light, and every lumen which is emitted from the OLED is usable light.That means that you don’t lose anything anymore in the lampshade, the reflector, the diffuser, and that’s what makes them so energy efficient.”
OLED technology is still evolving, and test samples at Philips’ lab in Aachen, Germany, are made by hand.
So what’s inside? Philips Technology Research scientist Stefan Grabowski has the answer.
“The way that we make OLEDs: we take a glass substrate on which there’s a transparent electrode.
“We put this in a vacuum machine, and there organic material is evaporated on this substrate.”
“When we are done with that we have to put aluminium on top as an electrode, so that we can pass electricity through it.”
Stefan leads an EU project to make OLEDs larger, cheaper, and even more efficient.
The research targets other areas too: “What’s also very important is the Bartenbach light laboratory in Austria, which carries out case studies in perception in order to test, for example, what the prospective customer likes about the OLEDs.”
These lights are taking their first steps from the lab into the commercial world. But they won’t stay in the shadows for long.
Kristin Knappstein: “A few hundred lamps are now on the market, and we see that within two, three years we will really be ready for the big entry into mainstream applications.”