OLEDs have been touted as future of lighting (and skin cancer treatment) for years, but major technical obstacles have stood in the way of widespread adoption. That may slowly be changing. Last week Philips, one of the biggest corporate backers of the emerging technology, unveiled plans for its first commercial OLED desk lamp.
In case you’re not familiar with OLEDs (which stands for organic light emitting diodes), here’s the gist. The super-thin technology is made up of several layers of organic molecules, which emit light when activated by an electrical current. OLEDs use less electricity (and mercury) than normal light bulbs or LEDs, they give off a soft glow comparable to daylight, and they can be rolled and bent into new shapes without becoming hot or losing their intensity. Philips calls them “an entirely new form of light,” which isn’t far off the mark. But while companies like Philips have designed some pretty remarkable ambient light installations with OLEDs, obstacles like high cost and a low lumen count have kept them from the commercial market for years. Moorea, the company’s first OLED desk lamp, is an attempt to bring the technology to the desks of consumers.
Moorea was designed by a young Berlin industrial designer named Daniel Lorch, who connected with Philips almost by chance. “Daniel visited one of our free OLEDs workshops, which we offer on a monthly basis for designers and architects,” Philips’s Dietmar Thomas tells Co.Design. “He came back to us with a clever design for a lamp with OLEDs. He wanted to know if this concept would work with the new technology.” It turned out to work quite well, and Philips asked Lorch to redesign it to incorporate its newest OLED model, the GL350—the first OLED bright enough to serve as functional desktop lighting.
Lorch’s lamp is a simple and elegant reinvention of an object that’s been around since electricity was invented. The base is connected to two OLED panels with a piece of spring steel, an alloy with an incredibly high yield shape (meaning it springs back into place no matter how it’s bent). A black cord running up the neck lets the user tension the steel into place—a bit like a blind—either pointing down at the desk or out into the room. The cord contains the power wires as well, which makes extra cords redundant. Lorch says the shape was inspired by the brass and green-glass lamps often seen on the desks of Film Noir lawyers. "I knew I needed to have at least two panels to have proper light for the desk,” says Lorch in a Dezeen video. “When I put two OLEDs together it immediately reminded me of the old bankers’ lamps because of the proportions.”
Thomas says Moorea will come to market—fingers crossed—by the middle of 2013, though there’s no word on how much it will cost.