The Science Behind Lighting’s Next Big Thing


There’s been a tremendous amount of discussion in the lighting systems industry about OLED or Organic Light Emitting Diode technology. OLED technology for mainstream consumers started in Japan in 2011 and has made its way to North America. Technology giants like Samsung, Sony, and LG have already started rolling out plans for curved OLED televisions, incorporating OLEDs into their phone and tablet displays. The general consensus is that OLEDs are the “next big thing” in lighting and display technology, but what are they really and what makes them such a big deal?

The “Organic” part of Organic Light technology is not an indicator of the product’s environmental friendliness, but instead follows a more scientific definition. In this sense, the Organic Light Emitting Diode contains a semiconductor made of organic molecular material. This semiconductor is attached to a cathode and then when current passes through the semiconductor and excites the electrons present the OLED generates light not unlike a regular light bulb with a couple of key differences.

OLEDs are incredibly thin and highly energy efficient which means they do not generate a lot of heat. Additionally, OLEDs do not throw shadows when lit, which means that light coverage is extremely even and when used in displays they provide crisp clear highly detailed images with vibrant color. All these pluses come with a few draw backs, OLEDs are very sensitive to water and highly reflective surfaces which means that they don’t work well outside in sunlight. Additionally, until very recently manufacturing OLEDs had not been cost effective but due to recent innovations it has now become easier to make them.

Looking ahead, there are a lot of potential applications for OLEDs beyond just home and entertainment electronics. OLEDs emit minimal levels of UV and Infrared light so they are safe for museum lighting and other types of light sensitive displays. OLEDs are also fantastic indoor lighting options providing a highly efficient and uniform glow which makes it comfortable and pleasing to the human eye. Lastly, OLED lighting does not use hazardous substances, like mercury, making it easily recyclable and environment friendly. With next-generation lighting replacing conventional lighting, the overall power consumption can be reduced by approximately 40% by 2030, with OLED’s contribution expected at around 20%. With a little more human ingenuity OLEDs are sure to make a worldwide impact to the lighting systems industry.

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