First we have printable solar panels converting light to electricity...now we have printable lights panels, converting electricity to light!
GE has, after four years of knowing it's possible, but not quite being able to do it, printed a light-emitting organic film in a roll-to-roll process. So...why is this important?
- Because the OLED (organic light emitting diode) film is extremely efficient.
- Because printing roll to roll makes OLEDs far easier to mass produce, and thus cheaper.
- Because OLEDs can be used in a huge variety of lighting applications, moving the world beyond lightbulbs and into a whole new paradigm of lighting.
Imagine a world where your wall glows at a brightness determined by ambient lighting and personal preference. Lamps might soon be obsolete, and the whole discussion about swtiching light bulbs completely moot.
Of course, the news comes with a dark side as well:
- The OLEDs are not yet as efficient as regular LED and compact fluorescent lights.
- They may allow us to increase energy use by decreasing the cost of lights. Imagine OLEDs in advertising on every shelf in the grocery store, all consuming electricity with the goal of making us buy more.
- OLEDs currently don't put off an attractive light, and the technology is still at least three years away.
GE says that they could have OLEDs for sale commercially as light sources by 2010, but that seems wildly optimistic to me. I expect it to be another five to ten years before the light quality and efficiency are acceptable to consumers.
It is certainly possible that this system might be used in electronics by around 2010, but as a dedicated source of lighting, I just can't see it.
Note: EcoGeek has been offered the opportunity to discuss this new technology with GE's head OLED scientist Anil Duggal. If you've got anything questions you'd like me to ask Anil, please leave them in the comments. I'll see what I can get to.
Via GE Press Release
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