Most of us still think “lightbulb” when we talk lighting or have that great idea. The old Edison-looking bulb with the glowing filament. This type of lighting is called incandescent and is steadily being replaced by solid-state lighting.
Solid-state lighting (SSL) refers to light emitted by solid-state electroluminescence as opposed to incandescent bulbs which use thermal radiation or fluorescent tubes. SSL doesn’t produce as much heat and uses less energy therefore is becoming the favored source for lighting. The U.S. Department of Energy projects that SSL has the potential to reduce the lighting energy usage by 75%, contributing significantly to battling our nation’s climate change along with adding some extra change in your pocket.
Most of us are already using solid-state lighting in our homes and workplaces. The most common form of SSL are light-emitting diodes (LEDs), which emits a bright blue-white light and seems to last forever. But now there’s another type of SSL called organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) which are becoming a key focus for the industry. And this lighting is not in the form of bulbs.
Instead of the traditional lightbulbs, OLEDs are basically lighting panels. They are created by placing a light-generating layer of plastic semiconductor material, between between two electrodes. This create a very thin and flexible light panel that can be shaped, molded or placed in a frame. They also can combine thin layers of colored film to emit a softer white light than traditional LEDs. This makes the aesthetic versatilityextremely diverse.
Since this lighting is produced in flat panels the light emitted from OLEDs is a lower intensity and more diffused. It is much more like natural sunlight. This prevents harsh shadowing or glare than one can get from using traditional bulb lighting. For these reasons, OLED lighting works best in tight spots where one would desire to see details, such as desks and artwork displays. Also, it works well above places where people gather like the kitchen, dining room or conference room. And because of its ability to mold to different shapes, it lends itself to decorative This type of lighting can be looked at as organic rather than the traditional pure function.
As exciting as this new technology is, OLESs are not replacing the LEDs or lightbulbs yet. The lighting is still in its infancy stage. Styles are still limited and they are comparatively expensive. A one-paneled pendant light at Home Depot costs about $200. But as more companies invest in this technology, the costs will start going down and more variety will become available.
So maybe in generations to come, when they have a bright idea, they may think of a panel of light instead of a lightbulb.