OLEDs or organic light emitting diodes allow light to assume any shape and hide behind any surface. This could revolutionise the world of design and architecture.
Franco-Italian illuminant label, Blackbody, which produces innovative OLED lighting, opened a showroom in Soho in New York in autumn 2013. Entering the showroom is like entering a future where lights no longer exist as objects, rather have disintegrated and split into thousands of particles where the points of light float freely in the room.
The Blackbody Showroom was the first of its kind in the world to offer designer OLED lighting for sale to the general public. These lights are made of extremely thin and lightweight glass, between which an organic layer shines. This technology is set to revolutionise the world of design, architecture and global energy consumption in the near future. The luminescent OLED tiles emit a warm, white light, have a long service life, are fully recyclable and are much more efficient than previously used technologies.
OLED technology is currently making its way from research to mass market. Chemist Herbert Naarmann already put forward the theory back in 1969 that special polymers can be semiconductive. Some twenty years later, researchers at the University of Cambridge developed such a light emitting diode for the first time.
Now in 2014, the Blackbody Showroom provides a glimpse into the future of lighting: the just two-millimetre thin OLED panels are so light that they appear to swirl around the room like snowflakes. The lights, or rather the "light complexes", are reminiscent of the extraterrestrial exotic plants from James Cameron's Blockbuster "Avatar", of sea anemones, ferns and creatures for which we don't yet know names.
"Up until now we only had spotlights, which were really quite hideous and blinding", says Blackbody chief designer Thierry Gaugain, "OLEDs allow light to assume any shape and hide behind any surface". OLEDs can be used to create luminous room dividers or they can be integrated in furniture and windows.
OLEDs equal organic because organic modules are used to produce them. Thanks to its versatility, however, the new technology also allows a natural "organic" relationship with light.
In the future, an OLED light source will be able to recognise what light the user needs at that precise moment in time. The vision is reminiscent of the wonderful science-fiction novel "The Future of Mars" in which Georg Klein describes a hot stone material ("Warmstein"). The stone starts to glow orange and radiate heat as soon as biological life approaches. The inhabitants of Mars line their chambers with hot stone tiles and bask in the light, in the heat and in the idea that somewhere in the vastness of the universe, millions of kilometres away from home, someone or something knows of their presence and is preparing for them. You don't necessarily have to fly to Mars to savour these thoughts.
Text: Tobias Moorstedt