In April 2008, we had the chance of interviewing Mary Kilitziraki, Fast2Light's project manager. Fast2Light is an integrated (9 companies, 3 research institutes and 2 universities) R&D project that aims to research and develop light emitting foils based on OLED tech.
Q: What are the major goals of the Fast2Light project? What will you consider to be a big success in the project?
Fast2Light aims to lay the foundations for marrying large-area roll-to-roll technologies with the field of organic electroluminescence, for all necessary layers in an OLED device on foil. We aim to set in place all the experimental platforms that when integrated will produce a high quality lighting foil. Yet, these technology platforms can be used in other electronic devices. We will indeed think ourselves as successful if we develop and master the new large-area processes and demonstrate these in a 30cmx30cm lighting foil in 3 years time. But equally important, one of the successes of the project will be the exploitation of our results, on platform level, in other fields of electronic devices.
Q: The project will focus on Polymers based OLEDs. Can you explain this decision?
In the lighting market, cost is a very important factor and every new lighting solution must be able to complete with the traditional lighting methods, i.e. the fluorescent lamp. Light-emitting polymers have the added advantage that all properties needed are combined in one layer that can be deposited with cheap printing solution techniques keeping in this way the overall cost of a lighting foil low. In comparison, SMOLEDs require multiple layers deposited by relatively expensive vacuum techniques. The race between polymers and small molecules is still taking place, headed currently by the latter. Though we are focusing in polymers, all technology platforms developed, except the printing of the polymers, are directly applicable to a SMOLED lighting foil.
Q: You will be using a plastic foil. Some companies are working on metal based foil... what are the major differences?
There are a few key differences between plastic and metal substrates, the most important being the conductivity, the barrier properties, the transparency and the surface roughness. Obviously lighting foils based on metal substrates must use a semi-transparent cathode and display optical cavity effects. Within Fast2light we feel that the fastest way to industrialization is the transparent plastic foil and we will be focusing on it. Yet, lighting metal foil can have a very unique visual appearance and will have a place in the signage market and niche applications.
Q: OLED lighting will enable new designs... what can you tell us about this? Also, OLEDs can be made flexible, and transparent. This is exciting for a lighting designer... will Fast2Light work on flexible or transparent OLEDs?
The major future lighting technologies will not only have a low cost of ownership, but also a high degree of flexibility in colour, brightness and product design. OLEDs are perfectly suited to fulfill these needs. In addition to colour and brightness tunability, they offer truly unique features through their freedom of design, i.e. 2D or 3D shape, their size and thin-ness, their ability to provide truly uniform, diffuse and shadow-less light, and their look in the off state, e.g. mirror-like, opaque or transparent. Furthermore, OLEDs on flexible foils can form a light source that can be fully integrated in objects of all shapes making them.
Fast2light will concentrate on enabling flexible OLED foils and then the step to variations as the transparent one will be easier realized.
Q: There are many partners in the projects - 9 companies, 3 institutes and 2 universities. How hard is it to manage such a project? How do you coordinate everyone?
The project incorporates the minimum number of partners, all leaders in their field of expertise, to create critical mass and success will be highly dependant on a good management. Other large IPs, such as OLLA and Flexidis incorporate many more partners in their consortium and are/have been successful demonstrating that a large number of partners can work successfully together if they share the same vision.
Up to now, the common goal of all partners has been the catalyst to a smooth project but Fast2light is only running for 2 months. Do ask me the same question again in a couple of years...
Q: You plan to demo a 30cmX30cm lighting foil at the end of the project. What kind of efficiency do you except?
The efficiency, as an absolute value, is not in the scope of Fast2light but what is in the scope is that the final demonstrator will have the same performance as the ‘standard’ small area device manufactured with standard techniques such as spin-coating. Fast2light will not be working with the latest experimental batch of the highest performing polymer, solely due to the fact that large quantities of light emitting white material will be needed for evaluation of the printing techniques. At an appropriate time in the project, the choice will be made for the LEP to use at the final demonstrator.
Large companies around the world have recognized the promise of OLEDs in lighting and signage applications. In Europe, traditionally the world leader in lighting, Philips and OSRAM are both active in the area though other significant players outside Europe as GE and UDC should not be forgotten. The European Union has recognized the need for an integrated approach to OLED lighting in order to sustain and reinforce the European leadership and has acted by partially funding Fast2Light, which targets the core of this strategic objective.
Q: There is another high-profile OLED lighting project in Europe - OLLA. Can you compare your two projects? will you cooperate?
The OLLA and Fast2light projects are complementary, with the former aiming at highly efficient materials and the latter developing the lighting foil that the light emitting material will be incorporated in. The projects share Philips as the end user and thus will be communicating and collaborating as much as possible. OLLA though has been focusing on small molecules and on acquiring the fundamental knowledge needed to achieve a highly efficient material.
Q: How will OLEDs fare against other lighting technologies such as LEDs?
Inorganic LEDs is an exciting area of lighting that has achieved many milestones in recent years. Both LEDs and OLEDs posses unique properties but different to eachother, i.e. LEDs already have a very high efficiency at a high brightness and a high lifetime but are neither flat, or flexible or cost-effective as OLEDs. The lighting world of the future will be shared between those two complementary technologies.
Q: What are the main obstacles on the way to OLED lighting?
There are a few milestones to be achieved before OLED makes it to the lighting market; a very important one is the performance and lifetime of the light emitting material. When one is considering OLED lighting on foils, then next to the material, a superior thin film barrier for oxygen and moisture is a must and if one takes it one step further and considers cost, R2R processes for all layers need to be developed.
Q: Where do you see OLED lighting in 3 years? When do you think we'll be able to actually buy an OLED "lamp"?
It is so difficult to predict the future of research items and people have been wrong often before. Yet, in my optimistic vision, in 3 years time, the above issues will have been solved, partly hopefully by the Fast2Light consortium. A pre-pilot line will exist that will manufacture demonstrators which will prove the capabilities of OLED lighting and the large industry end-users will have already made the plans of their production plans.
Q: A few days ago, OSRAM have announced the world's first 'OLED Lamp' - a beautiful thing, too. Can you comment on that?
This table lamp, very appropriately named ' early future', gives us only a glimse of how OLEDs will shape the lighing world once the product specifications are met. If the OLED characteristics of flexibility and large area are also exploited, the design posibilities are enormous. It is my believe that in the near future, we will encounter OLED lighting solutions in different forms and shapes in our everyday life.
Mary - thank you for a really interesting and informative interview. I hope Fast2Light will be a successful project, and I'm certain we'll hear about your achievements soon.