ASU Team Working On LEDs That Mimic Natural Light

Published: Thursday, November 19, 2015 - 9:00am
Updated: Thursday, November 19, 2015 - 10:04am
(Photo courtesy of ASU Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering)
This image of single-doped organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) shining a high-quality white light on a Magic Cube ® shows how OLEDs can vividly illuminate the colors of the cube across the full range of the visible color spectrum.

A research team at Arizona State University is working to produce lighting that more closely resembles natural light. The Show’s Mark Brodie spoke with ASU Associate Professor Jian Li about the development and use of these new Organic Light Emitting Diodes or OLEDs.

MARK BRODIE: How would these kind of lights look different? If you’re in a room with the kind of light that you’re working on, how would it look different than the kinds of lights for example that we’re under now in the studio?

JIAN LI: When we summarize those kinds of lighting technology they have several (kinds). One is incandescent light — those are the most friendly lighting for your home in our home or residential area — but they are not the most efficient. So now we are looking for more energy efficient lighting. For example, a fluorescent lamp and a LED type of lamp, those are more energy efficient but those have a quality of light that is not that great.

BRODIE: So is your goal then to get the best of both worlds, both energy efficient and good light quality?

LI: Those two merits actually satisfy the requirements from the Department of Energy. But actually the OLED-based lighting presents another advantage. Because the lightbulb itself is like a luminaire. So, conventionally speaking, when you think about LED light, light bulbs or fluorescent lightbulbs they actually have to be put in to certain fixtures. Because a lightbulb, itself cannot present as luminaire. But OLEDs lighting itself can be a luminaire — it can be made in any shape.

BRODIE: So is this the kind of thing you could imagine art galleries, maybe clothing stores, places where being able to see true colors would be really important?

LI: Yes.

BRODIE: One of the concerns that people often have with energy efficient lights like LEDs is that they’re expensive. To buy one of those bulbs is much more expensive than a traditional light. How do you see the costs for these kinds of bulbs being?

LI: For any new technology the cost is not only the fabrication, the cost is also the cost of infrastructure. That’s why for any new product, because the volume is small, and there is a lot of cost for marketing to increase consumer awareness, initial costs will be high. But eventually once consumers accept it and once the manufacturers increase their volume the cost will be reduced significantly.

BRODIE: Can you give us a ballpark — sort of a comparison with how much one of these bulbs might cost compared to if you go to Home Depot and buy an LED light?

LI: If you go to Home Depot, actually now they have some OLED-based products, but they may charge close to $100 for each single lightbulb. But in the ideal case, we believe with the increase of the production volume and a significant reduction of the fabrication costs those bulbs might go down to less than $1 — it is possible.