Huge potential for OLEDs in automotive industry
In recent years, a number of industries have started using Organic Light-Emitting Diodes (OLEDs) in diverse ways. The automotive industry, in particular, has seen a huge potential in OLEDs. OLEDs can be used as signal lights, taillights, and for interior lighting, providing a homogeneous light surface that is both energy efficient and sufficiently rugged. The auto industry typically adopts technology in its high-end vehicles before it filters down to the masses. Although lead times have continued to shrink within the industry, they are still somewhat substantial.
OLED technology may provide sufficient cost, safety, and style benefits for earlier automotive adoption. OLED panels provide comfort, take up less trunk space, and are more visible to cars and pedestrians when compared to their competition, so they add safety. We will most likely see such manufacturers as BMW, Audi, and Volkswagen, which have already showcased possibilities for OLED use, adopt within the next few years.
Difficulties of using OLED in vehicles
Major hurdles OLEDs have to cross when in use in automobiles are they have to withstand humidity, heat, cold, UV radiation, and constant vibration. All these can reduce the life span of OLEDs drastically. Audi claims to have solved this problem by encapsulating their displays hermetically, which they claim will make the displays as stable as LEDs.
Regular LEDs act as point sources of light, and it requires substantial development work for generating an even light from them. On the other hand, OLEDs are evenly radiating sources of light, and they naturally produce a uniform illumination. Moreover, their thickness is only about a millimeter, which makes OLEDs more suitable for automotive design.
Designers find OLED appearance is high quality, both when off and on. This is because it has a simple and clean surface. As design is an important aspect of the automotive industry, it makes OLEDs ideal for such use. Most automobile owners expect a certain lifestyle from their vehicles, apart from its functional use of transportation from point A to point B.
However, for use as turn signals and brake lights, the light intensity from OLEDs is not adequate, and will have to be increased. The automotive industry is also working on using flexible OLEDs. At present many are using glassbased OLEDs, but these are rigid, and using plastic foil substrates as the base for OLED is opening up a whole new world of opportunities for the designers.
Audi is expecting LOPEC will open up a huge bandwidth of business and research institutes for them. They expect to hold discussions with specialists using this breadth of activity, and to meet other OLED manufacturers and materials developers.
What the future holds
In about a decade from now, the world will be witnessing innovations in vehicle lighting that most can only dream about today. As it is, a vehicle’s lighting system already functions as a form of communication—hazard lights, turn signals, brake lights, for example. In the future, driverless cars will need to interact with others on the road with even greater sophistication. One of the visions Audi has is of a three-dimensional OLED display extending the entire tail of the vehicle, on the panel of the body, and integrated OLED within the windshield.