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Promise of Organic Photonics Looms Large

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Champions of organic photonics strive for market acceptance by making the most of the material’s thin and flexible nature.


Organic materials could supersede their inorganic cousins in many applications thanks to some unique and intriguing properties. From lasers, lighting and Li-Fi (light fidelity) to OLED TVs and solar cells, organic photonics offers a thin, flexible and easy-to-manufacture substance that is carving out new niches in some highly competitive markets. Materials composed of organic photonics are inexpensive, have low environmental impact and can be solution-processed, offering fast, simple and cheap manufacturing onto flexible, even wearable substrates. What’s more, organic materials allow for exact tuning of photonic properties, which opens up new applications in optical transmission, lasing and emissive displays. With so much to offer, it’s not surprising that researchers are clamoring to be the first to bring their take on the technology to the mainstream with features that consumers have never before seen. A case in point is the first foray of OLEDs into the automotive industry last year by lighting specialists Osram GmbH of Munich, initially in the form of taillights. The taillights were developed as part the collaborative R2D2 project sponsored by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). In the consortium, Osram partnered with Fraunhofer FEP, Audi AG, Diehl Aerospace GmbH, Hella KGaA Hueck & Co., Novaled GmbH and Von Ardenne GmbH to make flexible OLEDs in order to give automotive clients even more design freedom. “OLED is considered the next evolutionary step in automotive lighting and can be used both inside and outside the car,” said Marc Lünnemann, CEO of Osram OLED GmbH. Freedom of design is a key advantage for OLEDs. Organic photonics allow for unique 2D and 3D light shapes that are not only thin and uniform but also require less space in an assembly compared with traditional lighting. The OLED light shapes can be divided into several segments and controlled independently. The result can offer dynamic sequences with different levels of brightness, which helps to add dimensionality. While indoor and fixed outdoor lighting pose rather static and predictable environmental challenges, the same cannot be said for automobiles. Cars and trucks face harsh environments — such as extreme temperatures, moisture, oil and salt — that engineers at Osram had to overcome.

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Published: October 2017
FeaturesMaterialsLasersLight SourcesOLEDsLi-FiCommunicationsDisplaysImagingphotovoltaicsorganic solar cellLEDsCoatingsorganic semiconductorsMarie Freebody

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