So you probably think that LED lighting is the latest thing, but that's so 2002. The future of lighting is the Organic Light Emitting Diode, or OLED. And the first OLED lighting fixture that you can buy is the Aerelight, cooked up the hallowed walls of Toronto's Banting and Best Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship by OTI Lumionics.
OLEDs are made of organic dye molecules sandwiched between two electrodes. Applying an electrical current excites the organic dye molecules, causing them to emit light. It excites me too; this changes the way one can do architectural lighting. It's not a point source from a semiconductor like a conventional LED, but an even diffuse light from a relatively large area. Imagine wallpapering your ceiling with light emitting sheets of the stuff.
The dyes can be mixed up to give different colour temperature profiles; the Aerelight has been tuned to be slightly cooler than a conventional incandescent. It puts out a lot of light; 1200 lux at full power. They built a dimmer into it because it was too bright to use in a bedroom at night.
The OLED will pretty much last forever, so it isn't a separate bulb attached to a fixture, it is a permanent part of the fabric of the lamp. This is the future of lighting, where it will become part of the fabric of our buildings rather than something that is screwed in or out like a bulb. Designer Ray Kwa writes:
With traditional light sources, the bulb is a distinct separate entity from the fixture. With aerelight, I wanted to create a seamless, continuous frame integrating the base, frame and light, synonymous to the OLED light source itself with emits a diffused, fluid soft light. The touch activation is a feature that not only makes the interface simple and clean but allows the user to have a more intimate interface with the product. It’s also just plain cool.
The design is indeed elegant and slender, with a wood veneer touch on the base that is actually an induction charger for your phone. (this is now built in to some android models).It's remarkable that they are actually building it right in their offices, making the OLED sandwiches, cutting and forming the aluminum and assembling the units, which are available now for pre-order at C$239.
Michael Helander and Ray Kwa call it the desklamp of the future, but the Aerelight is really the start of a much bigger lighting revolution, where we will be buying our light by the square foot. More info at Aerelight