Rethinking OLED Lighting’s Future
Published: March 07, 2013 Category: OLEDs

In this article NanoMarkets lays out three scenarios of OLED lighting going forward and offers commentary on each. 

Scenario 1: OLED Lighting Prevails

This is the scenario – somewhat revised – that many forecasts of OLED lighting – including ours — have been based on in the past.  In this scenario, there are sufficient technical advancements, reductions of costs, and especially investment to make OLED lighting growth take a sudden surge.

As we have already noted the last of these criteria is beginning to look decidedly “iffy.”  However, the OLED lighting fan can still point to a few positive developments in the past year.  The major OLED lighting makers once again stepped up their development efforts, and progress, especially on the performance front, was made.  New OLED lighting products and quite a few new luminaire designs were launched.

But getting from all this to the specific outcome that is represented by Scenario One, will be hard to achieve and will take a considerable amount of both technical and business development work over the next four to five years.  Several challenges remain, including the needs for even more performance improvements, standardization as well as cost reductions and capacity expansion.

If the industry does meet these challenges, then OLED lighting could yet be the next “big thing” in lighting, or at least the next big thing in OLEDs! In particular, the prospect of using OLEDs for office lighting may still become a critical entry point for widespread commercialization, and automotive and residential lighting also represent major potential mass-markets. 

Important technical improvements on track:  The oft-cited, ultimate goal of OLED lighting is to sell it on the basis of its energy efficiency, which is closely tied to luminous efficacy. Fortunately, the evidence of the past three to four years is that OLED lighting efficiency is on a growth curve that will take it smoothly to the targeted 100 lm/W necessary to make OLED lighting achieve is 2015-2015 mass-market goals.  This is perhaps the single major fact that OLED advocates can claim in their favor.

Similarly, luminance performance is steadily improving, and most observers – NanoMarkets included – believe that it will be sufficient to go mainstream in the 2015-2016 time frame. Improved luminance for OLEDs is expected and will be welcomed by the market, but NanoMarkets does not expect it to be a critical factor in the success or failure of OLED lighting going forward.

An industry champion to ride to OLED lighting’s rescue:  Without such technical improvements the OLED lighting game would be over and OLED lighting panels would have been consigned to dustbins of semiconductor history where so many of the semiconductor innovations have gone before.

However, NanoMarkets thinks that Scenario 1 can never take place unless an industry champion emerges that will invest in OLED lighting despite the obvious risks.  Such a firm will have to be not only large, but well plugged into the lighting industry, so that it can capitalize on existing supply chains to make OLED lighting happen in a mass market sort of way. 

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