Sure, LEDs are energy-efficient, but until now, there have been some major issues associated with creating traditional light-bulbs out of them. A recent research breakthrough may have overcome that hurdle–essentially by avoiding it altogether. The lighting of the future, according to GE, may not be a lightbulb at all, but a flat illuminated surface composed of white OLEDs (organic light-emitting diodes)–thin, organic materials sandwiched between two electrodes that illuminate when an electrical charge is applied.
The technology development arm for the General Electric Company, GE Lighting and Konica Minolta (KM) announced recently that they’ve successfully demonstrated illumination-quality white OLEDs using “solution-coatable” materials that are essential for producing OLEDs at a low cost. These solution-coatable materials mean that, in essence, OLEDs can now be “rolled on” to surfaces, paving the way for highly-efficient illumination in areas of our lives we may never even have considered.
“GE and KM have done what many in the OLED research community thought was not possible,” said Anil Duggal, GE’s OLED lighting technology leader, in a statement. “We have produced high-performance white OLED lighting devices with a commercially viable lifetime using ‘solution coating’ rather than ‘vacuum coating’ processes. This allows us to make use of the high volume roll-to-roll manufacturing infrastructure that already has been perfected in the printing industry.”
This is big news, as it will allow GE and KM to manufacture OLEDs using high-speed, roll-to-roll processes rather than the vacuum-based batch processes used by companies in the OLED display industry, an innovation long believed to be the key to making OLEDs commercially viable for general lighting applications. The two companies have plans to introduce their first flexible OLED lighting product in 2011.