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, efficient and beautiful 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).
The OLED lighting market
OLED is an amazing technology for lighting - it creates beautiful, efficient and healthy light sources. OLED lighting has great promise but unfortunately the high price of production is a challenge that no one has managed to overcome and OLED lighting remains a small niche industry as of 2019.
In the early years, several large lighting makers (including GE, Philips, OSRAM, Panasonic, NEC and others) had active OLED lighting programs, but slowly almost all of these companies dropped out of the market - for various reasons - but the main one being that the large investments in large scale production are not certified to lead to market adoption and the competition with LED lighting is extremely difficult.
There are several companies that still develop and produce OLED lighting panels, but the production volume is still small and most makers target niche markets such as the automotive, health and premium designer markets. Some makers are also offering OLED lamps - click here for our OLED lamp listings.
Konica Minolta built 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, but real mass production at that fab is yet to be achieved as Konica Minolta still faces technical challenges and constant reorganization.
The latest OLED lighting news:
Japan-based Nippon Shokubai announced that its OLED lighting panels will be used in an upcoming textile exhibition in Japan. The company's fiber-type OLED lighting panels will be woven into a fabric, as can be seen in the video below:
Nippon Shokubai is developing OLED lighting panels under the iOLED brand. Its panels are very flexible and are only 0.07 mm thick. The company developed two panel types: a red panel which features a brightness of 5,000 cd/m2, EQE of 29% and >10,000 LT50 (@ 1,000 cd/m2) and a green panel that features a brightness of 7,000 cd/m2, EQE of 23% and >10,000 LT50 (@ 1,000 cd/m2) .
Audi unveiled a new concept electric car, the A6 E-tron. This is a preview of Audi's EVs based on the Premium Platform Electric (PPE) architecture that Audi is co-developing with Porsche. These cars will start production in 2023.
The new A7 E-tron has many interesting new technologies - and it also features OLED lighting panels in the tail lights. These lighting modules use 3D OLED clusters that can create "almost unlimited customisable variations of digital light signatures and dynamic lighting displays".
The Fraunhofer FEP Institute published this nice video that shows its latest technology innovations, including its OLED (regular and bi-directional) microdisplays, its new AR/VR optics, flexible OLED lighting panels, its Monarch flexible and transparent OLED panels, sensor and coating technologies and more.
The Fraunhofer FEP also created and published a new virtual tour of its facilities, where you can have a look inside the labs and flexible organic electronics R&D clearnroom.
Design house Look Labs announced the world's first perfume bottle with embedded OLED lighting. The Cyber EDP is a unisex fragrance, produced in France.
The perfume bottle included an embedded touch sensor and battery (both produced by a printing process). The OLED is red in color, and Look Labs says the battery will be enough for around 500 cycles.
University of Michigan researchers team up with UDC to develop a low cost flexible OLED lighting R2R production system
Researchers from the University of Michigan, in collaboration with Universal Display are developing a low-cost roll-to-roll (R2R) process to produce flexible OLED lighting panels. The goal is to achieve a panel cost of less than $10 per klm - a tenfold reduction compared to current costs.
The roll-to-coll system can continuously produce encapsulation panels, at high speeds and reduce costs. The front plane (organic stack) deposition is done via OVPD. The researchers say the will demonstrate reliable, encapsulated 25 cm2 flexible white OLED panels with an efficacy of 50 lm/W and a CRI >85 on barrier-coated plastic films or thin glass.
Last month we reported that Konica Minolta started to offer its flexible OLED lighting panels to global customers. One of the panels that KM is producing is a small red panel that can be integrated with an NFC antenna. This is an interesting concept, that is demonstrated in the video below.
The low power consumption of the OLED panel enables it to be powered by the NFC receiver and operate without a battery. It will be interesting to see what kind of applications will be developed using this technology.
UK-based PolyPhotonix, has been researching OLED technologies for many years, and its first commercial product will be the Noctura OLED sleep mask which helps patients with Diabetic Retinopathy.
The company announced today that it has signed a deal with Pioneer for the supply of OLED panels for the sleep masks.
In March 2014 Konica Minolta announced that it is starting to construct a R2R flexible OLED lighting fab, hoping to start production in the fall of 2014. This fab entered production later than planned, and took a long time to reach real mass production capabilities. KM has been producing panels for quite some time, but finally it is offering its panels to global customers.
Konica Minolta is currently offering four different modules - two white panels, sized 43x15 mm and 15x15 mm and a red 15x15 mm panel. The red panel can be integrated with an NFC Antenna. The panels can be flexed (40mm radius) and they all offer a brightness of 500 nits.
The OLED Association reports that Kaneka is seeing a market for OLED lighting panels in manufacturing sites, for visual inspection. The company is currently marketing such solutions in Japan, and the company says that OLED lighting can help detect defects on surface of parts, and it helps to lessen the burden on inspector eyes.
Kaneka says that it has seen defects reduced by 50% by using an OLED system instead of an LED system - at a brightness that is only 10% compared to the brightness of the LED system. It is seeing success in this market and the company's Q2 2020 panel output volume (at its OLED Aomori subsidiary) was up 10X compared to Q2 2019. The company is producing 3.54x3.54 inch OLEDs for this market.
China-based OLED lighting developer Yeolight Technology announced that its OLED panels were adopted by Hongqi in its latest H9 flagship sedan which is now being launched in the Chinese market. Hongqi is owned by FAW Car company and is actually the oldest Chinese passenger car brand.
The H9 uses 4 red OLED panels in each module. The panels are 131x32 mm in size and have 5 segments each. The color coordinate is CIY(0.69, 0.31).