OLED lighting is a solid-state lighting engine made with organic light emitting diodes (OLED) technology.  Some of the unique characteristics of OLED lighting include broad area, highly homogeneous emission, ultra-thin and lightweight form factor, cool-to-the-touch operation, and sustainability and health benefits.

Emission in OLED lighting comes from thin layers of conjugated organic materials that are electrically excited at the molecular level to produce light in a process known as photoluminescence.  Unlike OLED TV technology, which use patterned spots of red, green, and blue emission, broad spectral emission from an OLED light engine is achieved by mixing the appropriate organic materials in the thin film.   The organics can be coated over large areas and still achieve high efficacies, and this inherent property leads to many of the unique aspects of OLED lighting.

OLED lighting is currently being used in a variety of markets, including residential (i.e. kitchen under cabinets, ambient lighting throughout homes) and commercial lighting (i.e. office spaces, retail and hospitality environments), and architectural spaces (i.e. chandeliers in hotel lobbies).  Automotive applications in particular have leveraged the capability to form segmented panels, in which smaller areas of the lighting panel can be individually controlled and dimmed with high contrast between segments.  This allows for more detailed imagery to be shown, which improves communication between drivers.

OLED lighting and OLED displays are based on the same technology.  They differ in how the organic stack is integrated into the device, and the electronics used to drive them.  OLED displays have individually addressable red, green, and blue emitter pixels 50 to 100 microns in size attached to a complex electronic backplane which allows image content to be shown.  OLED lighting panels use simpler electronics, typically emit the same color over the entire surface, and integrate the organic emitters at the molecular level to build up the spectra.

A microdisplay is a small display (~ 1” diagonal) that can be used for near eye applications such as virtual and augmented reality, commonly referred to as VR and AR, respectively.  Combining the high brightness OLED lighting stack with a silicon electronic backplane and color filter arrays, allows for microdisplays with high contrast, brightness, and efficiency, and lower weight and power consumption compared to other technologies.

OLED lighting has been certified to have no exposure risk to the skin or eyes. In addition, OLED lighting can produce a low-glare and low-contrast illumination that are comfortable to the eye. That, combined with the cool-to-the-touch operation, makes OLEDs a comfortable lighting source to be around.

OLED lighting panels consist of 85% glass, with the balance organics and non-toxic metals. The panels have very few parts and a compartmentalized design, which makes them thin and lightweight. For applications such as automotive taillights, OLEDs can reduce the overall vehicle weight, resulting in greater fuel efficiency and lower carbon emissions, and simplify vehicle assembly to the ultra-thin profile of the panels.

OLED lighting technology is created in a way that the entire panel surface lights up homogenously.  Therefore, the heat that is produced is spread evenly over the panel surface and does not result in localized hot spots. This allows for integration of the panels with more sensitive materials, such as cloth, vinyl, and wood, expanding design options to manufacturers who want to embed OLED panels into their finished products.

Surface emission describes the radiation of light from an area instead of a single point. OLEDs emit light from almost their entire surface area instead of a singular point as traditional LEDs do. This property is inherent to OLEDs and does not require an additional light emitting surface. The results are that OLEDs produce a uniform low glare light with a lambertian distribution all without the need for additional optics.

A point light source emits light from a small singular point (imagine the tip of a pencil). A surface area source emits light from almost the entire area (imagine a piece paper where most of the surface of the paper emits light). In most lighting applications surface light sources are preferred. Inorganic LEDs are transformed into surface light sources by using light emitting surfaces, diffusers, or other optics. OLEDs by their nature are surface area sources.

The organic in OLED does not refer to the same organic in food products. Instead it refers to the chemistry used in producing the LED. Organic chemistry is based on carbon compounds and in OLEDs, those carbon compounds are used in the light generating layer(s). Inorganic LEDs use metal semiconductors such as Gallium nitride to generate light. Due to this difference in chemistry, OLEDs and Inorganic LEDs come in very different form factors with OLED taking the form of a light emitting surface and Inorganic LED being a point light source.

It depends on how bright you run them. At 100 lm, panels have an L70 of 100,000 hrs. At 300 lm, panels have L70 of 30,000 hrs. L70 is an industry measurement of LED lifetime. When an LED (inorganic or organic) loses 30% of its brightness or rather produces only 70% of its rated or intial brightness it is considered to have reached the end of its useful life. L70 is the measurement, in hours, of the time it takes to reach that point.