Analysts conclude OLED will struggle to rival LED for lighting

June 05, 2013 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
Market research and consulting company IDTechEx has looked at makrt prospects for OLED lighting, given the strong competition through conventional LEDs. The finding is that OLED is facing an uphill battle against conventional LEDs. Nevertheless, for the years ahead OLEDs will experience a stunning market growth - in specific, well defined niches.

OLED is likely to struggle to define and communicate its unique selling points and may remain an over-priced and under-performing option compared to LED lighting, conclude IDTechEx experts Norman Bardsley and Khasa Ghaffarzadeh. That is, unless Apple-like design innovation occurs. In other words: In standard applications, OLEDs won't be competitive against LEDs, but in areas where chic design features are the decisive factor, they have a good chance to prevail. This could be the case in the hospitality, retail and architectural sectors.

Today, OLEDs lag in terms of efficiency. Conventional LEDs typically offer 90-100 lm/W at package level while OLED modules deliver just 20-50lm/W. Another weak point for OLEDs is their life expectancy: The operating life of LEDs far exceed that of OLEDs. Indeed, LED lamps regularly offer in excess of 50,000 operating hours. In contrast, OLED lighting offers 5,000 to 15,000 hours of operational life even when encapsulated.

Cost is another important factor. Again, LEDs stay ahead with prices in the area of $5/klm at package level and $20 to $100 klm for complete luminaires. In comparison to this price level, OLEDs are so much more expensive that the authors of the IDTechEx study calls it "extortionate". Indeed, at a price of $300 to $500/klm - at panel level, excluding the cost of fixture design, OLEDs are far from being a cost-effective alternative. While OLED vendors typically position their products in the specialty market segment - which includes a high pricing level - the reasons for the high OLED prices can be found mainly at the technology level. The main cost drivers are the encapsulation layer (barrier, adhesive and desiccant) and integrated substrates (transparent conductive layer, substrate and out-coupling layer).

Figure 1. A radar chart comparing attributes of OLED and LED lighting

OLED lighting offers high potential for large-area emission as well as good form factors, although today most OLED lighting applications are made on rigid glass. Nevertheless, OLED