OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diodes) are light emitting panels made from organic (carbon based) materials that emit light when electricity is applied. OLED are used today to make beautiful and efficient displays, but it is also possible to use the technology to create white light panels for lighting.
An OLED 'light bulb' is a thin film of material that emits light. OLEDs provide an area-lighting panel (i.e. not point-lighting like LEDs and feature good color temperature. In fact some OLEDs (such as Verbatim's Velve panels) are color tunable. OLEDs can also be made flexible or transparent - and in the future we can expect exciting new luminaire design that use those advanced panels.
OLED lighting - the green light source
Not only are OLEDs very efficient (somewhere between CFLs and LEDs), but these 'lamps' do not contain any bad metals such as mercury, which is present in CFLs.
Sample design kits
There are several companies offering OLED panels: Philips, Osram and Japan's Lumiotec for example. These are 'sample panels' - which are not real commercial products as they are produce in small quantities and cost quite a fortune. They are used in premium light fixtures or as design kits for lighting professionals.
Philips' OLED panels are called Lumiblade, and were the first to be released back in 2009. Philips' panels come in different sizes, shapes and colors. Check out our first OLED light review of a couple of panels they sent us. Philips thinks that transparent and color-tunable OLEDs will be here within 3-5 years. Flexible ones? a bit longer, might take 5-8 years.
OSRAM's OLED panels are called Orbeos and aer available since November 2009. OSRAM offers round panels (88mm diameter) and square ones.The price of the round panel is around $375. Here's our hands-on review of the ORBEOS.
Lumiotec started offering their white OLEDs in February 2010 with just one panel - a rather large (15cm by 15cm) square OLED that's very bright. Lumiotec are now offering their second generation panels, with prices ranging from $200 to around $500. Here's our on-hands review of Lumiotec's Version 1 OLED panels - which includes a comparison to the Philips and OSRAM panels as well. Here's a short video review of all these panels:
Several companies (including Philips, OSRAM, WAC Lighting, Blackbody and others) are already offering lamps built from OLED panels. These lamps are still very expensive - the cheapest ones being Lumiotec's Hanger and Vanity lamps ($450 and $700) and Blackbody's Smart OLED family, which cost around €500.
Most OLED lamps are much more expensive - Blackbody's light-photon (shown below), for example, which has a single large 47cm x 37cm OLED panel costs $5,900!.
OLED lighting status
Virtually all lighting companies are engaged in OLED research and development - including Philips, OSRAM and GE. There are many other companies involved: including Samsung, LG, AUO, Lumiotec, Konica Minolta, Kaneka, Pioneer, Mitsubishi, NEC, Panasonic and others. While some companies are already producing panels, we are still years away from real mass production of OLED panels to compete in the general or professional lighting markets.
Here's a nice chart by DisplaySearch, showing the leading companies and their announced OLED lighting plans:
The latest OLED Lighting News: