OLEDs for clothing and lighting

An international consortium led by the University of Bath has started a 3-year project to bring organic light emitting devices (OLEDs) to the mass market. They want to produce electronic displays that fit on clothing. The project, named Modecom, is partially funded by the European Union, and has some very ambitious goals. For example, your clothes could change color when you press a button. Or these OLEDs could be used for more efficient lighting devices using solar power, saving money and electricity.

An international consortium led by the University of Bath has started a 3-year project to bring organic light emitting devices (OLEDs) to the mass market. They want to produce electronic displays that fit on clothing. The project, named Modecom, is partially funded by the European Union, and has some very ambitious goals. For example, your clothes could change color when you press a button. Or these OLEDs could be used for more efficient lighting devices using solar power, saving money and electricity.

Many other applications are possible. For example, here is a picture of an horrified young woman picking a yoghurt in her fridge and discovering what the pot tells her (Credit: Digitati Limited).

Looking at a yoghurt pot with an OLED warning message

And here is the warning message delivered by the yoghurt pot via an OLED embedded in its cover (Credit: Digitati Limited).

A yoghurt pot with an OLED warning message

[Note: These two images have been extracted from an animation that you can see on this page and which has been created by Digitati Limited.]

The consortium behind this project, Modecom, consists of 13 groups from 9 universities and 2 companies coming from 6 countries. And please note that Modecom is an acronym for "Modelling Electroactive Conjugated Materials at the Multiscale."

Here are some other possible applications of OLEDs in our lives according to the University of Bath.

  • as a transparent window. This is like a conventional window during the day, but when it gets dark a switch is turned on and the entire window area emits light in a more efficient way than conventional or energy saving bulbs, promising huge savings.
  • in clothing which displays strips of the polymer which run off solar power, allowing electronic messages to be displayed which can be updated. This could be useful for the emergency services such as police or ambulance.
  • as lightweight, solar power sources that could be rolled up and stored and which would also be ideal for people requiring electricity in remote locations, such as field researchers, mountaineers, sailors and military personnel.

The Modecom consortium is coordinated by Dr Alison Walker, of the University of Bath's Department of Physics. Here is a link to her research about organic light emitting diodes and photovoltaic devices.

Will OLEDs become ubiquitous 3 years from now? I don't think so, but we should see at least some commercial applications.

Sources: University of Bath news release, via EurekAlert!, April 18, 2007; and various websites

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