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Organic LEDs, the next generation of office lighting?

Some rights reserved by Greg Marshall

According to estimates from the state’s Research Development Authority (NYSERDA), about 40 percent of electricity in the US is consumed by office buildings. One upstate company, OLEDWorks, is developing technology that could help to lower this consumption.

The company’s developing organic L-E-D technology, or OLEDs, as a more efficient alternative for lighting the nation’s office spaces.

While regular LEDs like those in flashlights emit light from small points, organic LEDs emit light over a large surface area.

That, says OLEDWorks co-founder Michael Boroson, makes the light more appealing.

“It feels like more natural light, it looks like more natural light, people like the way the light looks better than especially florescent lights which are quite blue, but even LEDs are peaky.”

Currently, OLEDs are most commonly associated with the next generation of screen displays.

Ching Tang created organic LED technology while he was working for Kodak in the 1970s. He says not only are OLEDs becoming more prevalent in screen displays, they’re raising the bar for that technology too.

“It’s not just one of, it’s probably the best looking display technology ever made, even better than the LCD technology of today,” he says.

OLEDs are able to produce light directly from the pixels, without a back light. That’s what makes the technology so ideal for the screen display market, he says.

“When you turn the power off there’s no light emitting, which is very different from the LCDs where you have a backlight. Even though you turn the pixel off, the backlight is still emitting light, and therefore you can never turn the LCD completely dark. In contrast, organic LED you can make perfectly dark and therefore it makes the contrast ratio extremely high and that makes the picture look much more vivid.”

But screen displays are just one application for organic LEDs. OLED-Works recently received a $200,000 NYSERDA grant to deviate from this niche, and explore the lighting capabilities of OLED.

President and CEO of NYSERDA, Frank Murray, says regular LEDs are currently more energy efficient than their organic counterparts, but OLEDs show a lot of potential.

“In as much as lighting is such a large part of the portfolio for energy consumption, we take great interest in any emerging or new technology that might allow us to use the electricity, or the energy, more efficiently.”

Marsha Walton of NYSERDA says because OLEDS emit light over a large area eventually they could become part of a building’s structure.

“In time, you may see entire ceilings that will be lit in a continuous plane of OLEDs, but that’s still quite far down the line.”

OLED-Works is currently using the NYSERDA funding to develop the first commercial lighting application to use the organic LED technology.

The Rochester-based company is partnering with WAC Lighting in Port Washington to create the office lighting panels.