Friday, July 03, 2009

"MATERIALS: GE and CIA collaborate on flexible solid-state lighting panels"

Solid-state lighting panels will begin to replace the venerable light bulb next year when General Electric (GE) kicks off its printable organic light-emitting diode (OLED) effort. These flexible light panels use an inexpensive printing process to fabricate OLEDs on cheap plastic substrates. Right now the panels are not bright enough to replace high-intensity halogen lights, but over the next decade, as they get brighter, look for the light bulb to be phased out. R.C.J.

In 2010, General Electric (GE) plans to start mass producing flexible, paper-thin lighting panels by printing organic light emitting diode (OLED) semiconductors on flexible polymer substrates, then encasing them in ultra-high barrier coatings. The market for organic printed electronics will grow to become a $300 billion market by 2028, according to IDTechEx Inc. (Cambridge, Mass.) The wide diversity of architectural, industrial and consumer applications for its flexible OLED lighting panels prompted GE to recently sponsor two design courses at the Cleveland Institute of Art (CIA) which explored the range of applications available.

Some of the most promising CIA student designs, according to GE, include under-shelf lighting for retailers, flexible signage for advertisers, illuminated stairs for architects, light-up wallpaper for decorators and illuminated safety jackets, pants and hats. View the full range of student ideas by viewing a video. By using its roll-to-roll manufacturing capability for OLEDs on inexpensive flexible substrates, GE claims it can both decrease manufacturing costs and increase design flexibility. And the company claims its ultra-high barrier coatings will protect the flexible OLED material throughout its lifetime just as well as the stiff glass panels traditionally used to protect the delicate organic devices being printed. The GE-CIA collaborative effort resulted in hundreds of student-inspired designs, many of which GE engineers are currently developing into commercial products at its Nela Park design center in Cleveland and its Global Research Center in Niskayuna, N.Y. The students at CIA originated the designs in a class entitled "Future Design Center," the first semester of which focused on research, ideas and concepts, and the second semester of which refined, modeled and prototyped their best product recommendations.