Trade lighting supplier Applelec is showcasing its innovative OLED range at the company’s newly expanded London showroom.

Applelec’s studio, situated within the Business Design Centre in Islington, features a spectacular lighting display incorporating almost 100 OLED – or Organic Light Emitting Diode – modules in both a track-mounted and pendant form.

The stunning lighting scheme is proving a draw for both architects and designers who are keen to explore the possibilities offered by OLED. Characterised by its flexibility and versatility, OLED emits a soft, natural light that is suitable for a wide variety of applications while consuming less power than established LEDs.

‘O’ is for organic

Unlike traditional LEDs, OLED uses a series of thin, light-emitting films composed from hydrocarbon chains rather than semi-conductors laden with metals – hence the ‘O’ for ‘organic’ in the name.

One key feature of the light emitted by an OLED module is that it is softer and more akin to natural daylight; in fact, with the exception of old-style incandescent lamps, the relaxed, diffused light it produces is the closest light source to natural light.

This makes it ideal for a wide variety of uses where the benefits of natural light – or something as close as possible to it – have been identified. Research has long been established that demonstrates the positive effects of daylight on human health, illustrating an increase in both productivity and comfort when introduced in the workplace.

As OLED closely replicates natural light, it can be used to recreate daylight without either glare or excessive energy consumption. Health centres can reap benefits from its use, alongside facilities using sensory rooms, which greatly benefit adults and children with learning difficulties.

Other users are literally more cosmetic – high-end make-up and skincare ranges seeking to replicate natural light at their department store counters can use it to give customers an authentic picture of how colours will look once they step outside the store. Excessively bright lights around mirrors can only show how a product looks in that light; the effect in daylight can be noticeably different and is evident the moment you step outside the shop.

Energy efficient

The power of LEDs to reduce energy usage and the associated costs is well documented. OLED technology takes this one step further: as they have no backlight, OLEDs are even more efficient. With regular LEDs, the backlight is never actually turned off but is blocked, producing the colour black when the pixel shutter is fully closed. An OLED has no backlight, and turns the pixel off entirely to produce black, consuming no power.

As OLED technology continues to develop, so too does the potential for energy-efficiency. Currently, LEDs are still the first choice for facility managers looking to reduce often eye-wateringly high electricity bills and it is not unusual for premises managers to report savings on energy bills of around 75%.

At the moment, the limited lifetime of organic materials means that for building lighting schemes, regular LEDs are still widely used. However, moves are being made to prolong their lifetime, with some already capable of reaching 10,000 hours or above.

The use of OLEDs in technology, such as in televisions, computer screens, smart phones and hand-held gaming devices, is currently relatively widespread and the benefits are evident. Enhanced picture quality is achieved as a result of the lack of backlight – OLEDs incorporate their own colour filters and can produce a richer black.

It is also possible to create a far larger viewing angle of around 160 degrees without colours darkening or disappearing. In addition, OLEDs respond up to 200 times faster than LCDs, vital when fast-moving pictures on computer games are involved.

A slimline tonic
As OLEDs have no backlight, they are also significantly slimmer than their traditional counterparts, and in some cases are around 10 times thinner.

This streamlined, lighter and more flexible product opens up a whole new realm of possibilities and applications. OLEDs can even be utilised with 3D printing techniques; from
a design point of view, the slender and flexible nature of the modules makes it possible to create stunning sculptural light installations.