We've certainly made some pretty big advances when it comes to household lighting—but why rest on our laurels? The next leap forward in lighting could be sheets of OLEDs that hang from your walls—and use half as much power as light bulbs.
While OLEDs currently power the displays of TVs and smartphone to great effect, they're not used in lighting because they're too expensive. But companies like OLED Works and Pixelligent think that could change.
While OLEDS currently weigh in at at somewhere between 10 to 100 times more expensive than conventional lighting, that will fall in time. And the technology brings some real benefits: OLEDs run cooler than LEDs, so they don't require much in the way of cooling, and they're easy to manufacture in large sheets, so they could be built into panels that can mount on walls or ceiling to provide planes of light rather than points.
But most exciting is the advances in efficiency. Just the other week, a startup called Pixelligent announced that adding nanoparticles into OLEDs makes it easier for them to pump out light—increasing brightness by 2 to 3 times for the same input power. That's staggering jump, and more, similar advances are set to come.
Combine that with the work that Konica-Minolta and OLED Works are doing to make production of OLEDs cheaper—largely by abandoning the fine tolerances of current OLED production to make light panels more quickly and, hence, cheaply—and sheets of lighting could well brighten our future sooner than we may've thought.
Indeed, this fall, Konica-Minolta is going to launch full-scale production of OLED lights on flexible plastic sheets, and looks set to churn out a million 15-centimeter-wide panels every month. Sure, they'll be expensive at first, but according to Technology Review, Philips hopes to provide OLED lighting solutions for $600 by 2017. That could just be cheap enough to catch on. [Technology Review]