Wallpaper that can glow with light and bendable flat-panel screens are a step closer thanks to research into organic LEDs (OLEDs), which are hailed as the next generation of environmentally friendly lighting technology.

OLEDs use little power to produce light, even compared with modern energy-saving bulbs.

The chemicals they are made from can be painted on to thin, flexible surfaces, potentially allowing traditional light bulbs in homes and offices to be replaced with panels of energy-efficient light built into walls, windows or even furniture. Other uses include flexible display screens, whose low power consumption would mean they could operate without mains power, for example as traffic warning signs powered by small solar panels.

Lomox Limited, a company based in north Wales, is awarded more than GBP450,000 by the U.K. government-backed Carbon Trust to accelerate the development of its OLED technology.

Around a sixth of the U.K.’s electricity is used for lighting and Lomox claims its OLEDs are 2.5 times more efficient than standard energy-saving lightbulbs. The Carbon Trust said that, if all modern lights were replaced by OLEDs, annual carbon emissions around the world could fall by almost 7.4million tonnes by 2050.

OLEDs are expensive to make and tend to have a relatively short life. “What our technology does ... is fix those problems,” said Ken Lacey, chief executive of Lomox.

He said his company’s OLEDs had the potential to last as long as modern fluorescent lights and, for the display sector, as long as LCD panels.

The company will focus its efforts on getting the first of its OLEDs to market by 2012, mainly for outdoor lighting. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2009

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