August 17, 2016
Ah, another great step forward in lighting technology. Less efficient and shorter life. Wait, what?! Yes, if all you care about is lumens per watt and how many decades before L70, you may want to stop here. If you care about lighting quality and design, read on!
Organic Light Emitting Diodes are NOT diodes made from compost that is free of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. Organic refers to the carbon based chemistry used in the thin layers that emit light when excited by electrons. Think of a flattened LED. Very flattened. The actual emitting surface is thinner than a human hair. These layers must be put onto something that can hold them, of course. But that is where the fun starts. Glass is the predominate substrate right now for its optical efficiency and stability in all typical environments. The glass can be made very thin and less brittle to allow the light source to bend, allowing for unique designs. Plastics have also been used to make them very flexible and durable, although lifetime is reduced due to moisture penetration.
OLEDs produce a very smooth, diffuse light that does not require additional optic control. What does this mean for lighting applications? It means thin, uniquely styled lighting fixtures. It means glare-free illumination that can be viewed directly comfortably. It means great color quality. It also means good efficiency and lifetime. Perfect for ambient lighting or task lighting with minimum shadowing. Although they do not have the wide range of color options as LEDs, OLEDs are available with 90+ CRI from 3000K to 4000K. That makes them perfect for many commercial and residential applications.
But are they green? Ecologically speaking, of course. While they are not as efficient when simply comparing lumens per watt (LPW) to LEDs, at 40 – 60LPW and getting better, they are better than some technologies. And when you consider that no additional diffusion is needed to hide the “dots” from LEDs (which reduces optical efficiency), that makes OLEDs look even better! At 10,000 – 50,000 hours to 70% light depreciation (L70), lifetime isn’t bad either. This is achieved using very little or no heat sinking metal as well. When they do reach their end of useful life, no worries, they comply with strict RoHS directives and can be recycled since they are mostly made of glass.
This technology is still only beginning to appear in the world of architectural lighting. Lumen values are now high enough for general lighting and specifications continue to get better and prices continue to lower. You will soon see practical products showing up from quality manufacturers that will be well worth considering for your unique application.
All images sourced though OLEDWorks