The 2010/09/03 at 07:28
Alexandre T. Analis
It’s no easy task combine precision technology and energy savings, but efforts in the domain certainly pay off. Just take the example of the fantastic development of the OLED light market, especially when observing the growth rates of the sector’s principal actors.
A spin-off of the Dresden University of Technology (Germany) set up in March 2003 by Professor Karl Leo, Novaled AG swiftly became the uncontested leader in OLED technology. “At the outset, the idea was to find more efficient OLED layers while consuming less,” recalls Gildas Sorin, General Manager of Novaled AG as well as Foreign Trade Adviser for France. Today, the Dresden-based company employs around one hundred persons, has an office in Tokyo, agents in South Korea and Taiwan, and last year came out with a turnover of 8.4 million euros.
Thinner, more efficient, more economical
In concrete terms, OLED technology is useful for flat screens and more generally lighting. In the case of flat screens, currently technology is dominated by the LCD (Liquid Crystal Display), with the market shared between a few very large Asian-based multinationals. Thanks to OLED technology, extremely energy-efficient products offering remarkable image quality will be placed on the market. As for lighting, OLED offers thin light-emitting surfaces which are more efficient, energy-economical and eliminate the need to use mercury.
The activity of Novaled AG consists in developing OLED technology and selling it via licence agreements, as well as developing and marketing very specific organic materials associated with this technology. The Dresden company subcontracts production of its organic materials to the chemistry giant BASF.
A market full of promise
“What needs to be understood is that while the OLED flat screen is an evolution, OLED lighting is a revolution,” stresses Gildas Sorin. “In the case of LCD, technology is based on a transistor grid or active matrix containing the necessary circuitry to address each pixel of each image. This transistor grid is reutilised in OLED screens. LCD manufacturers are evolving towards OLED as image quality is superior and it is less expensive in energy terms. In addition, screens are thinner and more flexible, and manufacturers are satisfied to know that their mastery of the active matrix means that competition is kept on the outside.”
The development of the OLED flat-screen market offers very interesting prospects. Samsung, for example, will produce 46 million screens this year to equip mobile telephones. In 2015, over 600 million television screens will be manufactured by the South Korean firm. Meanwhile, OLED television flat screens should make their appearance on the market by 2012 or 2013.
At the same time, OLED lighting holds the promise of spectacular growth rates. “The OLED lighting revolution is threefold: revolutionary design, the emergence of a clean technology, and a revolution in the chain of values,” promises Gildas Sorin. In terms of design, OLED is a luminous surface (whereas classic lamps are luminous points and neon tubes are luminous lines); it is therefore finer and can even be transparent. The option of saving space whets the appetite of many building professionals. OLED technology is classified as clean as it uses less electricity for increased efficiency and does away with the use of mercury.
New actors on the market
To give the example of a comparison, a classic light bulb yields 10 lumens/watt (a lumen being a unit in the international system to indicate luminous flux, or power of light, symbolised by “lm”, editorial note), an energy-saving light bulb 40 lumens/watt and a neon tube 90 lumens/watt, but in these cases, it is necessary to deduct 30 to 70 % for it is rare that these sources of light are not dimmed by a lampshade or other such protection. On the other hand, an OLED offers a yield of 20 to 30 lumens/watt (without loss) and, from 2011 onwards, via a European research programme, the market is expected to offer OLED providing a yield of 100 lumens/watt. Given their flat surface which distributes light evenly, no lampshade is necessary.
Finally, the revolution in values kick-started by the OLED technology derives from the fact that in Europe, over 5,000 businesses produce lights, with different types of light sources (bulbs) only representing 20% of the total lighting market as opposed to 80% for lights. New players are therefore preparing to invest in the market, including Mitsubishi, LG and encore Samsung.
More information on www.novaled.com