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:
NTHU professor Jou has been researching the hazards of blue light for many years, warning us against the hazards of modern lighting and focusing on OLED lighting as the technology that enables low blue-light emission lighting.
ETNews: LG Display to focus on automotive OLED lighting and not quit the OLED lighting market completely
A couple of weeks ago we reported that LG Display has decided to quit the OLED lighting market, as it found it difficult to ramp out production and lower its production costs. It was not clear what's the future of LGD's automotive OLED lighting business, but now we have an update from Korea.
According to ETNews, LG display has indeed found it difficult to win orders for its consumer OLED lighting products, and has decided to "reduce" its Luflex OLED lighting product line. LGD, however, is not quitting the OLED lighting market - but is stepping up its efforts to supply automotive OLED lighting solutions.
Update: ETNews reports that LGD will not quit the lighting market completely, but change its focus to automotive OLED lighting
According to our information (from several sources within the industry), LG Display has decided to quit the OLED lighting market. LG found it difficult to ramp out production in its new OLED lighting fab and from what we understand the future prospects of the business did not seem good enough for the company.
This is very unfortunate news, as LG Display was seen by many as the leading company behind OLED lighting - and the one that could be the "champion" of the technology that will finally enable it to reach mass markets.
On March 9th, LG Display's promotion team kindly invited us to a tour of LG's "Display City" in Paju, Korea. The display complex houses about 20,000 employees, and is highly impressive. It was a pleasure to get the opportunity to see it.
The first thing one notices is the new P10 10.5-Gen OLED TV fab building - which is the largest building in Paju. The P10 OLED TV fab is not complete yet, but according to reports LGD will be ready to start installing the equipment soon.
In 2014 we reported that the Tai-Yah (also called Atayal) tribe, the "dark tribe", has started to test National Tsing-Hua University's blue-free OLED lighting panels (produced by WiseChip).
These early candle-light street OLEDs were not suitable for that environment, and NTHU researchers say that mountain dew rapidly shorted the wires. But not NTHU has stepped up its efforts and teamed up with First-o-Lite to produce a new version of its panels. This time the researchers are positive that its new panels will enable the entire village to adopt blue-hazard free lighting,
In early March we conducted a 10 day trip to Seoul, to attend the OLED Korea 2019 conference (and visit some local display companies).
Visiting Seoul is a great chance to witness some beautiful OLED installations - LG Display has been deploying its OLED lighting and display solutions across town in businesses and tourist attractions. Retail stores of course were showing the latest smartphones by Samsung and LG - all of which adopt high end flexible AMOLED displays.
The Fraunhofer FEP institute has teamed up with OLED lighting developer EMDE development of light to demonstrate wearable OLED lighting based on flexible OLEDs integrated into textile designs. The OLED demonstration will be unveiled at LOPEC 2019.
This project is part of the EU-funded PI-SCALE project, which recently demonstrated 15 meters long flexible OLED lighting panels. The Fraunhofer FEP says that they have taken a major step forward for the economical fabrication of OLED lighting devices based on the roll to roll process.
Excessive exposure to blue light has been linked to many health issues (including cancer, diabetes, heart disease, obesity and insomnia). Researchers from Taiwan's National Tsing-Hua University, led by Prof. J.H. Jou, have been advocates of candle-light OLED lighting for a long time, as part of their fight against the hazards of LEDs and white light. We recently posted on Prof. Jou's latest research on smartphone display risks and the benefits of OLED displays.
In 2015, Taiwan's PMOLED maker WiseChip Semiconductors licensed National Tsing-Hua University's blue-light free OLED lighting technology (called Candlelight OLEDs), with an aim to mass produce these OLEDs by the end of 2017. That project faced delays, however and now NTHU announced that following a collaboration with China's OLED lighting maker First-o-lite it is now ready to commercialize its technology and NTHU demonstrated the first device to use these new panels - the OLED lighting desk-lamp you can see in the video above (and photo below).
In 2017, Mercedes introduced OLED Taillight in its Mercedes 2018 S-Class Coupe and Convertible cars, and it seems that the German auto maker is now aiming to use OLED taillights in another model - the upcoming C238 E-Class Coupe was spotted in Stuttgart - with a new OLED taillight design.
The 2018 S-Class Coupe and Convertible used OLEDs produced by LG Display, and each taillight module contains 33 individually controlled red OLED panels. In the new C238 E-Class Coupe, it seems that each module uses 16 red OLEDs.
Yeolight Technology (which was spun-off Visionox in May 2015) developed candle-shaped transparent OLED lighting panels. The segmented panels have five different lighting panels each with its own brightness. The total size is 11.26 x 26.26 mm (with a thickness of 1.05 mm).
Yeolight tells us that these new OLED candles has been developed for a customer that will soon ship its final product to the market. The panels are now in production.