‘No future for OLEDs’ in general lighting

OLEDs, once a promising technology to rival LEDs, won’t work for general lighting as they’re too expensive to make.

An Osram OLED panel - but it's too expensive for general and achitectural lighting applications

That’s the verdict of Olaf Berlien CEO of Osram, one of the world’s leading investors in the tech. He believes, however, that OLEDs will remain in niche applications in cars, smartphones and televisions.

‘We will invest in OLED but not for general lighting,’ Berlien told analysts. ‘I don't think that it will be important in the future for general lighting. It's too expensive.’

The comments will represent a second hammer-blow to the once-promising technology, following Philips’ high-profile exit from OLEDs last year.

As the world’s leading supplier of automotive lighting, Osram would still continue developing OLEDs, but for general lighting its investments – such as its recently-announced US$1 billion LED chip production plant in Malaysia – would be in LED.

There was a time when OLEDs were seen as complimentary – and sometimes even a rival – to conventional LEDs. Unlike LEDs, which are essentially point sources of light, OLEDs consist of illuminated sheets which are bendable. If they could be made cost-effectively, then they would have had exciting applications in architectural lighting.

The problem of high cost has been compounded by rapid developments in LEDs: increases in efficiency of the latter have far outpaced those of OLEDs, and prices have tumbled to commodity levels. Additionally, innovations in LEDs – such as flexible sheets and large illuminated surfaces -  have manage to mimic many of the appealing qualities of OLEDs in the recent years.