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Let There Be (a New Kind of) Light

Organic LEDs seem set to transform the business of bulbs

4 min read

Recent events on the business front and advances in the lab could soon transform the way we go about lighting our homes and buildings. Significant strides in developing organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) may allow architects in the next few years to integrate this power-efficient and tractable technology into basic building materials, enabling entire structures to be turned into luminous edifices. In the home, sheets of this next-generation lighting material might be applied like wallpaper for illumination purposes and to provide changing background hues to suit particular moods; further development of the material could see it double as wall displays and televisions.

This March, Konica Minolta Holdings, a Tokyo-based manufacturer of imaging products, and General Electric Co., one of the world's largest lightbulb makers, formed a strategic alliance to accelerate development of OLED lighting and vowed to ship products in the next three years. Meanwhile, as researchers around the world race to commercialize OLED lighting, an engineering group at Yamagata University in northeast Japan says OLED lighting products based on its work will be launched as early as next year.

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This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

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