Article last updated on: May 15, 2021

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.

Stage Entertainment Hamburg Theatre OLED installation 2 photo

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).

LG Chem truly flexible OLED lighting panel photo

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 2021.

In the early years, several large lighting makers (including GE, Philips, OSRAM, LG, Konica Minolta, 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.

Further reading

The latest OLED lighting news:

OLED lighting for automotive application - early 2022 market snapshot

The OLED lighting market is still in its very early stages – as currently commercial shipments mostly consist of premium lamps and installations, and the industry target niche applications - such as commercial lighting, health-related solutions and the automotive industry.

Audi A8 2018 OLED structure slide

OLEDs offer several unique advantages to the automotive market, and it's also a market with defined premium cars that can be used for early adoption of high cost technology. In the past few years, we've seen several car makers (including Audi, Mercedes and BMW) that started to adopt OLED lighting in car taillights. Initial adoption was for optional modules, but today several car models come with OLED lighting as standard. OLED lighting can be used for several applications within the automotive market.

Inuru now offers printed OLED lighting panels in any shape on demand

OLED lighting developer Inuru announced that it is now capable to print OLED panels in any shape, on demand.

Free form OLED prototypes, Inuru

Inuru has setup a pilot line in Berlin Adlershof. The company says its new panels offers very small size, as required, and excellent homogeneity. The company can pair it with thin printed batteries to power the lighting panels.

PolyPhotonix raises $10 million to bring its OLED-based Noctura eye mask to the US

UK-based PolyPhotonix announced that it has raised $10 million from Prevail Partners, which will help the company perform trials for the FDA with hopes to market its Notura eye mask in the US.

PolyPhotonix's Noctura 400 is a sleep mask that uses green OLED lighting panels for a non-invasive treatment for diabetic eye disease (DED). which helps patients with Diabetic Retinopathy. Pioneer supplies the OLED panels for PolyPhotonix.

Look Labs launches a hoodie integrated with OLED lighting

Design house Look Labs announced a new product, a Hoodie called the omfy420 Metalight Hoodie that features the design house's CryptoPunk #5402, which is targeted for gamers who play Look Labs' own 420 game and can buy the hoodie from within the game and

The Hoodie features an Inuru's OLED lighting device which lights up the eyes of the figure in the hoodie. Inuru's OLEDispowered by an integrated thin-film battery that can be recharged wirelessly, and the whole system is washable and easy to integrate into textiles.

OLED lighting - always look on the bright side

Some years ago, OLED lighting was a great promise. OLED panels can offer a beautiful light source, uniform emission, very high (system) efficiency, flexible and transparent functionality and designs that cannot be matched by other lighting types. OLED devices offer high light quality and a healthier type of light, as well.

All major lighting makers attempted to develop OLED lighting: Philips, GE, Osram, NEC , LG and others. But most companies gave up, as the high production costs and challenging competition from LED lighting were too much to tackle.

But OLED lighting is still being developed, by several players, and it is making good headways in some markets, especially the automotive one. Here are some recent announcements that will hopefully make you more positive about the future of OLED lighting:

OLED webinar to introduce OLED lighting manufacturing and R2R production

An AILU (Association of Industrial Laser Users) webinar, scheduled for September 15, will introduce the basics of OLED lighting, discuss the choice for the right substrate and encapsulation material as well as the current status of roll-to-roll processing. The webinar is sponsored by 3D Micromac, the industry leader in laser micromachining and roll-to-roll laser systems.

The webinar will also show results from the EU-funded LAOLA project, which is a collaboration between German and Japanese companies and research institutes. The LAOLA project, led by the Fraunhofer FEP, develops the use of ultra-thin flexible glass as a substrate and encapsulation material in roll-to-roll technology for this purpose.

OLED developments at the IIT's FlexE Center

The National Center for Flexible Electronics (FlexE) was established in 2014 as a Centre of Excellence at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Kanpur. The vision of the center is to "catalyse the development of domestic industry in the field of large area flexible electronics".

OLED lighting prototypes, FlexE Center

The FlexE center has some interesting OLED projects, and we recently had a discussion with researchers from the center to learn more about the OLED R&D activities.

Cambridge Isotope Laboratories - Deutreated Reagents and High-Purity Gases for OLEDsCambridge Isotope Laboratories - Deutreated Reagents and High-Purity Gases for OLEDs