Probably, our children will be very surprised that in the history of lighting there was a 110-120-long period, when the technological basis of light sources was constant. No matter how brilliant is that Thomas Alva Edison improved the light bulb at the end of the 19th century, it may seem weird that humanity had to wait more than a whole century for more energy efficient solutions. Our grandchildren will probably be used to the fact that in every 10-20 years new lighting systems will enter the market; since current future prospects suggest that this is going to happen. A new era has already started: 100-watt-bulbs cannot be bought in Europe any more, and from the next year on, trade of traditional bulbs will be completely over.
The industry has accelerated enormously over the last 10-15 years; today, the compact fluorescent lamps dominate the market, but soon they pass the baton to LED (Light Emitting Diode), and OLED (Organic Light-Emitting Diode) technologies, and presumably developments will be far from being over.
What drives this rapid change? Well, primarily the energy efficiency, since, to provide the same light intensity, a light bulb needs fifth as much energy as a compact fluorescent lamp does. LEDs are even more effective, so it's easy to see that, by using them, enormous energy can be saved. But of course there is a fly in the ointment, namely that a LED is still quite expensive, and we can only consider it cheap, if we realize that its life-span can be 40-60 years. However, in the not too distant future, the LED, and in particular the intelligent and flexible OLED will be hidden in lamps so well that we won’t notice them; so, actually, according to today's understandings, we will buy lampshades “without bulbs”.
The outstanding advantage of OLED is that due to the organic matter content of pixels, the display is able to emit light and it doesn’t require additional light sources. Developers use these extreme characteristics not only in lamps, but in entertainment electronics too. For example they develop a flexible, rollable television, in which the OLED display is embedded in the thin, plastic surface.
OLED technology gives an endless opportunity to designers' hand; for example the BASF presented a light source, which on the one hand fits the top of the car and works as a solar cell, but on the other hand it is actually a light fixture, which is transparent, when it is off. So the “glass-topped” car collects electricity in daytime and is able to illuminate the car’s whole interior during the night.
Watch our video about the unique OLED light fixtures of the Smart Forvision electric car:
Automation didn’t avoid illuminating engineering either. Nowadays not only the light can be controlled, but the set values can also be saved, so, in this way, by pressing a single button the so-called “light scenes” can be turned on. For example, we can teach the “lamp system” the light conditions we like, when we just got home from work, or the lighting we need on a romantic evening. Moreover, lighting programs connected to smart sensor systems can be turned on with a single movement, for example, by entering the door.
The prospects of the OLED technology go far beyond the simple lighting. OLEDs are actually building blocks, which can be widely used not only as light sources, but as decorations too. The low-power diodes can be used to design clothes, furniture, vehicles and jewelleries, but they can also be used in arts.
The use of solar energy for light sources is obvious: a lot of LEDs exist, which produce electricity from the energy of light captured by solar cells. There are such light fixtures under construction which use solar energy, and it is planned to produce light, as alternatives of candles and oil lamps, for people who live far away from electricity sources.
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