Lighting Up Our World Responsibly

Back in 1879 Thomas Edison patented the incandescent light bulb. While it lit up our world, both literally and figuratively, little did we know that carbon emissions would greatly increase, and our planet’s eco-system would be severely altered. Since then we have been on a mission to figure out how to light nations, villages, towns, neighborhoods, etc. more efficiently. As spelled out by Design Curial “lighting plays such a crucial role in design in that it leads the focus on sustainability.”

In the late 20th century the energy crisis was upon us, and the compact fluorescent light bulb was born. Unfortunately for our planet, this light source is still widely used in commercial and residential spaces today. Next came LEDs. Not without their fair share of trouble in their early days, LEDs have emerged as an efficient, quality and low cost alternative to other light sources.

As LEDs still struggle, to answer society’s calling for a sustainable, emotionally effective, light source at a reasonable price, OLEDs are on the rise.

There are many benefits to OLED technology, but one of the key benefits is sustainability. As the name states, the composition of OLEDs are organic, and the technology provides for energy-efficient illumination. OLED light fixtures actually diffuse light. Instead of receiving electricity through a wire, and emitting light by a single source, OLEDs use organic dye between two flat semiconductors to spread light across a larger space.

There are also many indirect ways that OLED Technology is having a positive impact on our environment.

  1. OLEDs last a long time. Each time someone chooses OLED technology over a traditional light source, the amount of waste from items such as lightbulbs decreases. Many lighting applications, such as fluorescent light strips in offices, also contain hazardous materials like Mercury. This will further contaminate the environment when disposed of.

  2. OLEDs do not product much heat, which can reduce energy used for cooling purposes.

  3. Less light is needed. With the ability of OLED technology to diffuse light over large spaces, less OLEDs are needed to achieve the same level of brightness given off by other light sources. This reduces energy consumption. With a growing population, and theories that enough energy will not be available for our growing population in years to come, OLED technology is a much needed resource.

Why is this green technology not more wide spread?

It has the ability to produce solar grade lighting, and replace incandescent light bulbs for general lighting purposes, but it is currently too expensive and not bright enough. One of the widely known researchers into OLED technology is Professor Zheng-Hong Lu. According to an article by the University of Toronto,

“A research breakthrough in Lu’s lab involving chlorine appears to have tackled both issues. Two PhD candidates on Lu’s research team, Michael G. Helander (EngSci 0T7, MSE PhD 1T2) and Zhibin Wang (MSE PhD 1T2), observed that a sheet of indium tin oxide (ITO)—the substance used to make flat-panel displays—became brighter after it was cleaned with a solution containing chlorine.

Further research determined that when ITO is treated with a one-atom-thick layer of chlorine, just two OLEDs need to be stacked to produce bright light rather than several. The simpler design also means that an OLED flat panel display is very thin and flexible —you can actually bend it.

The end result is high brightness at a high efficiency, said Lu, plus a simpler manufacturing process that translates into a more affordable, high-quality lighting solution.”

With breakthroughs such as Professor Lu’s, OLED technology has the ability to light up our world, both figuratively and literally, for years to come.

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