OLEDs vs LEDs: Are We There Yet?


A lot of chatter is stirring up around LED technology these days, especially in the lighting world. One of the amazing, but also difficult things about LED technology are the continuous changes and improvements. The Lighting Practice will discuss OLEDs vs LEDs.

The newest breakthrough is a type of LED called an Organic Light-Emitting Diode, or OLED. You yourself may have encountered this new technology and not have even realized it. OLEDs are used in new smart phones, tablets, and smart TVs. They are now starting to make an entrance into the A/E/C industry. OLEDs are becoming another tool for lighting designers as a light source.

Now, what’s the difference between OLEDs and LEDs?
The significant difference between OLEDs and LEDs is the material through which the electrical current flows. OLEDs use a thin layer of an organic compound and LEDs use a semiconductor which is most commonly constructed from a silicon based compound. The advantages of using the organic compound is that it allows for the light emitting material to be thin, flexible and translucent. OLEDs can be formed into an endless variety of shapes while still retaining many of the advantages that LEDs have over other types of light sources.  One of these advantages is their ability to be turned off and on continuously without significantly affecting the overall life expectancy. The problem with OLED technology is that it still has a pretty hefty price tag and low efficacy (lumens/watt). These issues tend to drive lighting designers away from specifying OLEDs.

It is my belief that all of OLED’s inefficiencies will fade with time, just as we have seen with LEDs. As the technology quickly advances the efficacy will increase and the prices will drop. The ability to shape, mold and manipulate light will be endless. Soon the unimaginable will be possible! With OLED technology all surfaces will be capable of turning into an illuminated element. For example, the set of the movie Tron will no longer be a fictional scene.

To learn more about OLEDs from TLP’s designers please read OLEDs: Open Opportunities