Researchers roll out a new form of lighting

Nov 01, 2011

In this month's edition of Physics World, Paul Blom and Ton van Mol from the Holst Centre in Eindhoven describe a way of creating thin, flexible sheets of organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) using a cheap, newspaper-style "roll-to-roll" printing process.

These bendable materials could oust the conventional light bulb and revolutionize the way we illuminate our surroundings, being used for everything from lighting tiles and strips in homes and offices to windows that can simulate sunrise and sunset.

Rather than the traditional solid, "inorganic" LEDs that we are used to seeing in display signs, and car indicators, OLEDs can be easily dissolved in a solvent and so sprayed onto a roll of thin, flexible, plastic foil in the same way that newspapers are printed.

"Many companies recognize the potential of OLEDs and are investing heavily in research and development in the hope that when this technology finally takes off, they will be in pole position to take advantage," Blom and Van Mol write.

The bottom layer of an , which acts as a support, is a such as a polymer foil that has the electrodes and the light-emitting layer sandwiched on top to make up the complete device. Each layer is between 5 and 200 nanometres thick.

Traditional LEDs have so far failed to become a viable alternative to light bulbs because, despite being highly efficient, they have to be fabricated in clean rooms and so are expensive to make. But with about 20 per cent of the electricity the world consumes going on lighting, Blom and Van Mol state that any new, more-efficient could greatly reduce global energy consumption.

OLEDs are poised to take over from the as their spray-on production makes them a faster and cheaper alternative to traditional LEDs and can be produced en mass through the "roll-to-roll" newspaper technique.

There are, however, several hurdles that need to be overcome before OLEDs become a commercial commodity, such as depositing the materials onto a thin film sheet with high precision, managing the properties of the different materials and, most importantly, keeping water out of the device – OLEDs have a barrier requirement up to a thousand times more demanding that food packaging.

Blom and Van Mol describe how their institution, along with several other research institutes and commercial companies, is at the forefront of combating these problems and delivering OLEDs into the hands of the consumer.

Explore further: Ultrafast imaging of complex systems in 3D at near atomic resolution nears

More information: Physics World - physicsworld.com/

Related Stories

High-brightness breakthrough

Jun 28, 2005

As a result of cooperation between Philips Lighting, Philips Research and Novaled have announced a new record for the efficiency of high-brightness white OLEDs, a new solid state lighting technology. OLEDs are expected to ...

World's most efficient flexible OLED on plastic created

Oct 31, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Engineering researchers at the University of Toronto have developed the world's most efficient organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) on plastic. This result enables a flexible form factor, not to mention ...

Highly efficient organic light-emitting diodes

Aug 09, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) are seen as a promising replacement for the liquid-crystal displays (LCDs) used in many flat-screen televisions because they are cheaper to mass-produce. ...

Nanometer Graphene Makes Novel OLEDs Display

Mar 10, 2010

Researchers at Stanford University have successfully developed brand new concept of organic lighting-emitting diodes (OLEDs) with a few nanometer of graphene as transparent conductor. This paved the way for ...

Recommended for you

What's next for the Large Hadron Collider?

19 hours ago

The world's most powerful particle collider is waking up from a well-earned rest. After roughly two years of heavy maintenance, scientists have nearly doubled the power of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) ...

User comments : 3

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

jimbo92107
2.8 / 5 (4) Nov 01, 2011
"OLEDs have a [water] barrier requirement up to a thousand times more demanding that food packaging."
There are lots of little sea creatures that produce light. How do they solve the problem of keeping water out?
Scottingham
5 / 5 (3) Nov 01, 2011
Simple, they don't use OLEDs...sheesh.

bioluminescence does not equal Organic LED.
Vendicar_Decarian
5 / 5 (2) Nov 01, 2011
"There are lots of little sea creatures that produce light. How do they solve the problem of keeping water out?" - Jimbo

Since they don't glow using OLEDs, what in the world makes you think that they need to?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.