Thursday, August 6, 2009

Philips creates super-flat lighting system

Whether incandescent, fluorescent, or newfangled LED, all light bulbs have something in common: The bulb. When you think about it, little about Edison's traditional, and actually quite large, design of the light bulb has changed since the first days of electrical power -- at least in the looks department.
Well, what if you could get rid of the oversized light fixture or table lamp and instead slap a light source on the wall or ceiling as you would a painting -- or even a coat of paint? That's
the idea Philips has been attacking, creating a wafer-thin light source that could revolutionize lighting as we know it.
The so-called Lumiblades are real, available, and they work -- but they're insanely expensive. At about $100 per square inch, Philips will sell you the devices in your choice of red, green, blue, or white light.
What's the source of the light? Organic LEDs, or OLEDs, a type of light-emitting diode that doesn't behave the same way a standard LED does. Regular LEDs emit light from a single point, and thus this light has to be shaded or bent in some way to avoid becoming blinding, while an OLED emits light across its entire surface, hence offering it the ability to be adapted into a flat design. OLED light is easier on the eyes and is more efficient since shading isn't needed.
While Lumiblades are currently little more than a hackers' toy, the prospect of flat lighting has amazing prospects for the technology market. Rather than outfitting cell phone displays and laptop screens with bulky, bulb-based lighting systems, flat OLEDs could shave many millimeters off the thickness of the typical portable device. (And, in a few products in development and even fewer actually on the market -- like
Sony's jaw-dropping 3mm-thick television, this is already happening.) Of course, OLEDs will need to come down in price -- quite a lot -- before mainstream applications become a possibility. That TV linked above is 11 inches in size... and costs $2,500.
But it's the prospect of lighting that is attached to walls and ceilings like wallpaper that is so extremely tantalizing, effectively turning large surfaces into giant displays that could portray, say, sun and clouds during the day, or the Northern Lights after hours. Layaway plan, anyone? link....

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