A QUICK TIMELINE
Over 100 years after the first incandescent lamp was designed, almost 85 years after the first reliable and marketable incandescent bulb was developed, and over 50 years after the florescent bulb was developed, a new lighting technology was produced, called Light Emitting Diode or “LED.” Twenty five years after LED, came the invention of OLED lighting.
ADVANCEMENTS IN TECHNOLOGY - GOOD OR BAD?
As technological advancements take place, we as consumers assume they are for the better. Bigger TVs, smart everything, robots with feelings, renewable energy, phones that have cameras (and every other piece of our lives), plant based foods, nuclear power, and the list goes on. It’s hard to argue that new technology is inherently good, or bad. We would not call something technology if its purpose wasn’t to be useful in solving an existing problem, or meeting a new want/need. The issue is the effects of these new technologies. They may be much better for some people than others, and in some cases new technology can be downright bad for the majority. This is true with lighting as well.
MOVING FROM INCANDESCENT to LED to OLED
The Color Rendering Index (CRI) is one of the most crucial aspects of lighting. Incandescent light bulbs have a notoriously good ability to render color. Essentially this means, that colors appear rich, accurate, and natural to the end-user. They look under artificial light, as they would in natural daylight. Think of it this way – why are photographers so concerned about lighting and capturing as much natural light as possible? So their subjects appear as natural to their authentic self as possible.
CRI is also key when discussing how lighting impacts mood. Full spectrum lamps, and lamps with high CRIs, can promote concertation and higher productivity. We want the colors from the objects that surround us, to appear as close to real colors as possible. These bulbs also give off a warm light, soft diffuse light making them perfect for sleep environments.
Many people are beginning to alter the lighting in their home, not just for the aesthetic but for their health. As we have mentioned in many of our blog posts, light interferes with our Circadian Rhythm. You can read our most recent on daylight savings time and our Circadian Rhythm here. With this rise of LED technology, and increased exposure to blue light, our whole temporal environment has been altered. According to an article by the New York Times, “It doesn’t take a scientist to notice that incandescent bulbs feel soothing, like the light from a campfire, while LED lights often feel like you’re staring at a blowtorch. The LED lighting has left a lot to be desired,” said Jill Vegas, an interior decorator. “A lot of times it makes the room feel really cold and sterile and depressing.”
However, Incandescent bulbs do have major deficiencies such as poor energy efficiency, and a poor lifespan. Actually, they are the worst on the market. They are also omnidirectional meaning they produce light in 360 degrees. Incandescent lights need to be reflected and redirected creating for a less efficient output.
LED is an extremely energy efficient lighting technology. They have electrons that flow to create photons – light we can see. LEDs use over 75% less energy than incandescent bulbs. Due to the energy efficiency of LEDs, and United States federal rules to switch to more energy efficient bulbs, in 2014, the United States decided to no longer manufacture or import incandescent bulbs.
The problem with LEDs is that they do not have the high CRI that incandescent bulbs do and produce a harsh blue light. Many people are opting against LEDs do to their cold and sterile feeling. Blue light, although environmentally friendly, has been linked to sleep disorders and even some diseases.
LEDs are also a pointed light source, have intense brightness, and need to be kept away from direct view to prevent intense glare. Heat is also generated from a small region, leading to high temperatures and the need for thermal management and heat sinking.
Is this quest for energy-efficient lighting at odds with our personal health?
Enter OLED Lighting
It doesn’t have to be. OLED lighting, is the newest lighting technology, with advancements being made every day. It is an energy efficient light source, which also has a high CRI, is a diffused light source, and has no risk for blue light exposure. They also have ultra slim form factors offering excellent visual light quality. The brightness of this technology is characteristically calm and comfortable.
The CRI in OLED lighting is typically greater than 90 and is perceived as being close to daylight. This goes hand in hand with the benefits of incandescent lighting. There are also many products on the marketplace that show efficacy similar to that of LED lighting.
OLEDs are still expensive to produce, but their cost continues to come down as advancements are made.
With no blue light risk, high CRI, and high efficacy, OLED lighting technology may be the winner in the competition of efficiency vs. personal health. Sometimes it’s good, to mix the old with the new, to create a technological advancement that has a positive impact on the majority.