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Exciting White Lighting

April 23, 2010 - 10:27am


In the future, your office building’s windows might be replaced with windows that have transparent organic light-emitting diodes in them so that, during the day, you can see through them, but at night you might turn on your windows so that the OLEDs emit light into the room. That’s what Janice Mahon, vice president of Technology Commercialization at New Jersey-based Universal Display, calls “a fun concept with real potential.”

Though Universal Display’s PHOLED technology and materials can already be found in a variety of OLED displays for cell phones and TVs, OLED production for lighting may ramp up much faster because they are easier to manufacture.

Universal Display specializes in developing patents in advanced OLED-lighting research and development with the goal of licensing its technology to other companies for use in their products. In some cases, the company demonstrates technology to lighting companies or shows manufacturers how to successfully produce products on a larger scale. OLEDs did not have the potential to be competitive with conventional fluorescent lighting until Universal Display discovered a new technology — phosphorescent OLEDs — that enabled a boost in efficiency four times greater than previously witnessed. Through the support of the U.S. Department of Energy and other development funding, Universal Display has been able to convert this breakthrough into commercially realizable performance.

“We really took the industry by surprised, and a lot of people said, ‘Wow, this technology can put its money where its mouth is,’” Janice says. This result and other advances have been key in helping accelerate commercialization plans.Universal Display recently demonstrated, in the lab, PHOLED lighting at 102 lumens per watt, which is 10 times more energy efficient than an incandescent bulb. The company is now working on transitioning this ‘pixel’-sized result into comparable results on larger-sized panels.

Since being founded in 1994, Universal Display has grown to about 85 employees, and Janice says the company has grown to support its expanding program in white OLEDs as it started demonstrating the commercial merit of white OLEDs for lighting and received DOE funding support. She believes OLEDs are the future of lighting and says the technology is more environmentally friendly than compact fluorescent light bulbs because CFLs contain mercury.

“There are huge energy savings and environmental benefits to OLEDs, and there are also innovative and distinct opportunities for their use,” Janice says. “Imagine a lighting panel that is essentially a piece of glass or plastic that is coasted with these organic light-emitting materials, and it can be cut into any shape you want — rectangle, circle, square, even a star, for all kinds of interesting lighting designs and applications.”

Janice says OLEDs will also be better able to compete in the marketplace and will become increasingly affordable as large-scale manufacturing capacity comes online in the U.S., likely within the next five to 10 years.