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Rays of a new light

Rays of a new light
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First Published: Wed, Sep 09 2009. 08 59 PM IST

 Future vision: 1. An Oled installation by Hannes Koch, who says the technology will ‘change the quality of light in public and private spaces’; 2. Students at the Cleveland Institute of Art have deve
Future vision: 1. An Oled installation by Hannes Koch, who says the technology will ‘change the quality of light in public and private spaces’; 2. Students at the Cleveland Institute of Art have deve
Updated: Wed, Sep 09 2009. 08 59 PM IST
LED light bulbs, with their minuscule energy consumption and 20-year life expectancy, have grabbed the consumer’s imagination.
Future vision: 1. An Oled installation by Hannes Koch, who says the technology will ‘change the quality of light in public and private spaces’; 2. Students at the Cleveland Institute of Art have developed flexible, paper-thin Oled technology on safety outerwear; 3. A flexible blue Oled at GE’s global research centre in Niskayuna, New York; 4. A lamp by designer Ingo Maurer, which costs about $10,000, uses 10 Oled panels.
However, an even newer technology is intriguing the world’s lighting designers: Organic light-emitting diodes (Oleds) create long-lasting, highly efficient illumination in a wide range of colours, just like their inorganic cousins, LEDs. But unlike LEDs, which provide points of light like standard incandescent bulbs, Oleds create uniform, diffuse light across ultra-thin sheets of material that can eventually even be made flexible.
Ingo Maurer, a lighting designer with studios in Munich and New York, who has designed chandeliers of shattered plates and light bulbs with bird wings, is using 10 Oled panels in a table lamp shaped like a tree. The first of its kind, it sells for about $10,000 (Rs4.8 lakh).
Maurer is thinking of other uses. “If you make a wall-divider with Oled panels, it can be extremely decorative. I would combine it with point light sources,” he says. Other designers have thought about putting them in ceiling tiles or in Venetian blinds so that after dusk, a room looks as if sunshine is still streaming in.
Today, Oleds are used in a few cellphones, such as the Impression from Samsung, and for small, expensive, ultra-thin TV sets from Sony (and soon, from LG). Sony’s only Oled television set, with an 11-inch screen, costs $2,500.
Oled displays produce a high-resolution picture with wider viewing angles than LCD screens. In 2008, seven million of the one billion cellphones sold worldwide used Oled screens, according to Jennifer Colegrove, an analyst at DisplaySearch, a research firm. She predicts next year that that number will jump at least sevenfold to 50 million phones.
But Oled lighting may be the most promising market. Within a year, manufacturers expect to sell the first Oled sheets that will one day illuminate large residential and commercial spaces. Eventually, they will be as energy-efficient and long-lasting as LED bulbs, they say.
Qualitative change
Because of the diffuse, even light that Oleds emit, they will supplement, rather than replace, other energy-efficient technologies, such as LED, compact fluorescent and advanced incandescent bulbs that create light from a single small point.
Its use may be limited at first, according to designers, and not just because of its high price. “Oled lighting is even and monotonous,” says Maurer. “It has no drama; it misses the spiritual side.”
“Oled lighting is almost unreal,” says Hannes Koch, a founder of rAndom International in London, a product design firm. “It will change the quality of light in public and private spaces.”
Koch’s firm was recently commissioned by Philips to create a prototype wall of Oled light, with sections lighting up in response to movement.
Because Oled panels can be so flexible, lighting companies are imagining sheets of lighting material wrapped around columns (General Electric, or GE, created an Oled-wrapped Christmas tree as an experiment). Oled can also be incorporated into glass windows; nearly transparent when the light is switched off, the glass would become opaque when illuminated.
Because Oled panels are just 0.07 inches thick and give off virtually no heat when lit, architects one day will not need to leave spaces in ceilings for deep lighting fixtures.
The new technology is being developed by major lighting companies such as GE, Konica Minolta, Osram Sylvania, Philips and Universal Display.
“We’re putting significant financial resources into Oled development,” says Dieter Bertram, general manager for Philips’ Oled lighting group. Philips recently stepped up its investment in the area with the world’s first production line for Oled lighting in Aachen, Germany. Universal Display, a 15-year-old company that develops and licenses Oled technologies, has received about $10 million in government grants over the last five years for Oled development, says Joel Chaddock, a technical project manager for solid state lighting in the US energy department.
Armstrong World Industries and the US energy department collaborated with Universal Display to develop thin ceiling tiles that are cool to touch while producing pleasing white light that can be dimmed like standard incandescent bulbs. With a recently awarded $1.65 million government contract, Universal Display is now creating sheet-like under-cabinet lights.
“The government’s role is to keep the focus on energy efficiency,” Chaddock says. “Without government input, people would settle for the neater aspects of the technology.”
Coming soon
GE is developing a roll-to-roll manufacturing process, similar to the way photo film and food packaging is created; it expects to offer Oled lighting sheets as early as the end of next year.
“We think that a flexible product is the way to go,” says Anil Duggal, head of GE’s 30-person Oled development team. Oled is one of GE’s top research priorities; the company is spending at least half its research and development budget for lighting on Oled.
Exploiting the flexible nature of the Oled technology, Universal Display has developed prototype displays for the US military, including a pen with a built-in screen that can roll in and out of the barrel.
The company has also supplied the air force with a flexible, wearable tablet that includes global positioning system (GPS) and video-conferencing capabilities.
Proponents of the technology say that as production increases and the price inevitably drops, Oled will find wider use in cars, homes and businesses.
“I want to get the price down to $6 for an Oled device that gives off the same amount of light as a standard 60-watt bulb,” says Duggal. “Then, we’ll be competitive.”
©2009/THE NEW YORK TIMES
CONNECT
Ikea in font mess
Ikea, a Swedish furniture chain, never expected a backlash after switching the typeface in its latest catalogue.
The company’s first font change in 50 years, from the iconic Futura typeface to Verdana, caused a worldwide reaction on the Internet. The catalogue, which the company advertises as the world’s most printed book, was distributed last month. It fuelled tweets such as “Ikea, stop the Verdana madness” and “Words can’t describe my disgust”. Ikea spokeswoman Camilla Meiby says, “We’re surprised.”
Verdana was invented by Microsoft for use on a computer screen, not paper. Its wide letters, with space between characters, are designed to increase legibility on small screens. Ikea said that in order to reach many people in different ways, it needed a font that works in both the digital and print media.
— AP
Pergola-a shady retreat
A pergola or arbour can serve as a shady retreat, frame a view or create a focal point. It may be a romantic structure smothered in roses or a sleek metal arch spanning an urban patio. Let it complement your home and garden style: contemporary, cottage or formal. Arbours you walk through must be at least 2x7ft . They should bear the vine’s weight even in gusty winds. Anchor the posts in at least a foot of concrete. Use decay-resistant wood or treated lumber, with galvanized screws or nails. Make the lattice with treated lumber cut into 3- to 4-inch strips. Many ready-made lattices are too weak to support vines such as the Rangoon creeper.
©2009/THE NEW YORK TIMES
Deborah‘s tips for passionate decorators
When working at ‘Domino’ magazine, Deborah Needleman wanted to design a quiz to give readers an insight into their personal decorating styles. But the founding editor-in-chief of the now-closed magazine never got around to it. So Needleman was thrilled when the discount retail chain HomeGoods asked her to create a free StyleScope for its online community of passionate decorators.
HomeGoods’ new online tool at www.homegoods.com assigns participants to one of 16 style types, from Country Eclectic and Bohemian Classic to Earthy Modern, based on answers to 10 questions. Participants are also offered design tips and ideas on incorporating colour.
©2009/THE NEW YORK TIMES
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First Published: Wed, Sep 09 2009. 08 59 PM IST