OSRAM Opto Semiconductors and celebrated lighting designer Ingo Maurer have unveiled a revolutionary lighting application based on organic LEDs (OLEDs) at the Light+Building Fair in Frankfurt am Main, Germany (April 6-11, 2008). Ingo Maurer is the first to use OLEDs from OSRAM in a functioning table light. The limited-edition light, known as “Early Future,” shines with tiles directly from the OSRAM laboratory and demonstrates the enormous potential of using OLEDs to create future applications with eye-catching illumination and design elements.
Early Future is designed without any concealing reflectors. As in Maurer’s design works with LED, technical elements are unveiled to accentuate their intrinsic beauty. Slight metal clips fasten the ten OLED-modules used in the lamp to the lamp stem, the cables being visible. Ingo Maurer calls his approach “a symbiosis of high-tech and low-tech”.
Flying Future, the larger suspended OLED object, consists of just an airy metal mesh to which about 100 of the white luminous panels are attached. By bending the mesh Ingo Maurer shapes the unique piece according to his imagination. Its wave-like rhythm offers astonishing impressions from each viewing angle.
Ingo Maurer is fascinated by the characteristics of OLED: “They have a totally different look than traditional light sources. They neither require reflectors directing the light into the right direction nor large sockets. Their lightness allows the realisation of long-standing visions of mine”. The futuristic design triggers images of space technologies. Maurer cites satellite solar collectors as one source of inspiration.
It is not only the shape of OLED which is different – the characteristics of their light are totally new as well. The radiant surfaces generate a diffused light, reducing the shadows and unwanted reflections – such as on computer screens, features that are advantageous to illuminating work desks.
OSRAM Opto Semiconductors made prototypes of organic light emitting diodes available to the designer for his exclusive creation. “We are proud that our OLEDs have inspired such a renowned artist as Ingo Maurer to create such an exciting work of art. ‘Early Future’ is a vision that has become reality. It gives us a glimpse of just how versatile organic OLEDs can be in terms of their design options and applications,” said Martin Goetzeler, CEO of OSRAM.
The Osram OLED is a 10x10cm tile with a light output of between 30 and 50lm. The firm has pulled out all the stops to hit 46 lm/W – particularly in fashionable, but generally less efficient warm white – putting this fledgling technology level with the bottom of established fluorescent fittings in efficiency terms, and well above the 12 lm/W achieved by normal light bulbs.
“Ours emits a homogeneous warm white, with a stable colour over brightness,” Dr Karsten Heuser, director of OLED lighting technology at Osram told EW. “We have scaled it up to 100cm2 to see if it could be transferred to a larger area. This is an intermediate step to prove it is scalable. Another development topic is to find the limits of how large a panel could be made.”
The basic technology in this emitter is vacuum-processed small molecule OLED, as opposed to printable polymer OLED.
“It has a transparent anode on glass, a reflective metal electrode on the back, and an emitter achieved by casting red, green and blue dopants in a matrix material,” said Heuser. “We are focussing to achieve in future very cost-effective processing of this technology.”
OLEDs degrade rapidly in the presence of oxygen and water vapour. Heuser said the firm is using an undisclosed encapsulation process to block these – leading to the 5,000 hour life to half brightness.
Ingo Maurer used OLED tiles with an area of 132 x 33 millimeters for his creation. For Maurer, unusual design is not an end in itself. “‘Early Future’ represents an important stage in the transition from abstract object to functional designer lighting,” he said. Maurer has been shaping developments in light-as-art and lighting design for many years. In 1966 he exhibited the designer luminaire Bulb which has been on exhibit in the New York Museum of Modern Art since 1969 along with other works of his. Through the years, Ingo Maurer has received numerous awards for his avant-garde work with light.
OLEDs – a journey from the laboratory to the home
Organic LEDs offer all the familiar benefits of LEDs such as high energy efficiency, low operating voltage and mercury-free design, and also have some impressive properties of their own. The light source is not a collection of individual light points but a uniform light-generating surface. Initial laboratory prototypes from OSRAM showed last year the property of transparent light in a usable tile size. Thanks to the layer structure, it is possible to produce not only very thin OLEDs but also scalable ones.
OSRAM Opto Semiconductors has a team of approximately 50 research engineers working on the development of OLEDs, turning what may seem like science fiction applications into reality. “In the future it will be possible to use OLEDs as flexible or transparent light sources. A transparent OLED over a window in a roof would allow natural light in during the day and provide fascinating illumination for the room at night,” said Dr. Bernhard Stapp, Head of Solid State Lighting at OSRAM Opto Semiconductors. There are possible applications for these new light sources in the automotive industry as well. Rear lighting elements could someday be integrated entirely within the rear windshield.