Dr. Karsten Diekmann, the head of OLED Product Development and Marketing at Osram in Regensburg, is certain: The first cars featuring OLED light technology could hit the road in as little as two years. According to Diekmann, the company has moved a great deal closer to series production for automotive applications. “Last year, we were already achieving record figures for temperature stability and service life and we have broken those records again since then,” he told us. The requirements on resistance to high temperatures and environmental influences such as dirt and road salt are extremely high in the car industry – much higher than in the entertainment electronics sector, where OLEDs are already being used.
OLED stands for organic light-emitting diode. Consisting of a thin, light-emitting surface, they are a new kind of luminous semiconductor and have little in common with classical LEDs. This offers great advantages, for instance in taillights. The currently available light sources, such as incandescent lamps or even ordinary LEDs, emit what are more or less points of light, but taillights and braking lights need to emit light from a surface. All manner of optical tricks are required to get these points of light to perform this function. OLEDs, on the other hand, already emit light across a surface.
Osram is now demonstrating just what OLED technology is capable of in a taillight. “All the essential light functions have been achieved using the new technology,” said Diekmann. That includes braking lights and indicators, which need to fulfill particularly demanding requirements in terms of brightness. Osram’s latest prototype is naturally up to the job, also complying with all the statutory requirements.
What’s more, these high-tech systems are not to be sniffed at when it comes to design options. Indeed, OLED technology opens up undreamt-of possibilities in this particular domain. “An OLED need not be square or rectangular or round,” Diekmann emphasized. Designers can quite literally look forward to very bright prospects, creating luminous emblems in distinctive shapes. Such features as transparency or flexibility are also on the horizon. “One example would be a third braking light which could be integrated in the rear window.”
OLEDs are likely to prove invaluable in interior lighting applications, too, e.g. illuminating vanity mirrors or as reading lights. We can expect to see OLEDs making their debut in these applications, too, in the near future.