Philips: OLED lighting will be mainstream in 2012

But won't replace the light bulb

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Philips has told TechRadar that it's planning to make OLED a mainstream lighting technology by the end of 2012.

Dietmar Thomas, Communication Specialist for Philips, told us that large investment in the technology will yield a significant drop in the price of OLED panels, enabling users to consider the flat and super-thin technology as an alternative for interior design:

"Philips has invested €40m in a production line [in Aachen, Germany] which will bring a price drop in the two years, bringing our cheapest OLED modules down to €10-€20.

"Then we'll be in the mass market, and you'll be able to get them at your local hardware shop," predicts Thomas.

"When the production line opens we'll have 10 times the OLED production capacity that we have now, which will lead to the drop in price. We're currently selling OLEDs on the web from €70 all the way up to €800, but as of next year we'll be selling larger OLED panels for around €50."

Not just cost

Although price is one of the major barriers to OLED adoption at the moment, there's also an issue about where the technology can actually be used - OLEDs offer a flat, even light where many homes are set up to use a single source of illumination, like that offered by traditional light bulbs.

"We have to sell OLED as a 'beautiful light'," admits Thomas. "When people hold an OLED light in their hand for the first time, they're amazed. We're currently creating OLEDs that are 1.8mm thin, but in the future we can get that down to less than 1mm thin - it's like a light bulb but instead it's a small sheet.

"But it's not our intention to replace the traditional light bulb - now for the first time people don't need a whole system in their ceiling, like they have to when incorporating LED or fluorescent light. OLED lighting might be more expensive but it's a great alternative.

"The issue is trying to show people what OLED can do, and what it is. In two or three years they'll become flexible, and suddenly they can be incorporated into a chair, a bath or shower cubicle to create beautiful and functional designs.

"There are so many new ways to think about lighting design in the home or office."