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 and large lighting panels.
An OLED 'light bulb' is a thin film of material that emits light. OLED is the only technology that can create large "area" lighting panels (as opposed to point or line lighting enabled by LEDs and Fluorescent bulbs). OLEDs can be used to make flexible and transparent panels, and can also be color-tunable. OLEDs emit beautiful soft diffused light - in fact OLEDs lighting is the closest light source to natural light (with the exception of the old incandescent lamps).
OLED lighting on the market
Several companies already offer OLED lighting panels - including Philips, Osram, LG Chem, Konica Minolta and others. Current production lines are still small, and prices are still high, but we see rapid advances in performance and price and it is expected that the OLED market will emerge in force by 2016 or 2017.
Above you can see a video review we posted a couple of years ago, showing sample OLED panels from Philips, OSRAM, Blackbody and Lumiotec. Current panels on the market are larger, brighter and more efficient than those available back then, and some companies already produce flexible and transparent panels as well.
The OLED lighting market
As we said, currently many companies are producing OLED panels. The largest OLED in production is LG Chem's 320 x320 mm panels. These panels are 0.88 mm thick and feature 60 lm/W, CRI of over 90 and an output level at 800 lm - 1,200 lm. The price is currently $680 per panel (yes, very expensive). LG Chem also produces flexible panels on glass, and are developing "truly bendable" panels produced on plastic.
Philips is focused on functional light - bright, efficient and homogenous panels. The company's recent panel is the FL300 Brite Lumiblade, which is a 100x100 mm panel that offers a 300 lumens, 50 lm/W, 10,000 hours lifetime (LT70) and is only 1.4 mm thick.
Konica Minolta recently started mass producing flexible OLED lighting panels in what is probably the world's most advanced OLED fab - a Roll-to-Roll flexible OLED lighting fab that has a capacity to produce a million flexible and color-tunable OLED panels each month. The Japanese company recently announced that it shipped 15,000 flexible OLEDs to a Japanese Tulips Festival - by far the largest OLED installation to date.