Architectural Lighting's Elizabeth Donoff notes that while LEDs and OLEDs are often grouped together in industry discussions, and the former has taken ahold of—and transformed—the lighting sector, the latter has followed a more gradual trajectory of development and adoption.
Performance, life span, and cost have set the two lighting sources apart, but recent advances in OLED panel technology accompanied by successful field-testing have narrowed the gap.
OLEDs, or organic light-emitting diodes, share a portion of their name with LEDs but that is where the similarities end. LEDs use two electrodes—a cathode and an anode—to produce and emit light and can be configured in linear or circular arrays as a component directly within the luminaire assembly. OLEDs sandwich organic compounds between the cathode and anode, which are then applied to a substrate that typically is rigid, such as glass. In recent years, OLED manufacturers have explored other substrates such as plastic, which enable flexible and curved OLED panels, as well as larger panel sizes and shapes beyond the conventional 2-inch-square or 4-inch-square format.