DOE awards four SBIR grants for OLED projects in FY13 SSL program

May 7, 2013
Litecontrol, Plextronics, InnoSys, and Universal Display win funding for various OLED research projects as the DOE seeks to push the SSL technology toward broader commercialization.

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has announced four new research grants awarded as part of its Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. The latest awards target advancements in solid-state lighting (SSL) technology, in this case all are for OLED projects, and the funding goes to Litecontrol Corp, Plextronics Inc, InnoSys Inc, and Universal Display Corp.

Litecontrols's project is entitled "A novel OLED luminaire system for specialty lighting applications." The company is developing an OLED luminaire family for use in corridors and public spaces at night in which accurate color rendering is important.

Universal Display is developing a low-energy shelf light targeted at aircraft interiors that it hopes to bring to market in 2015. The company is pursuing the "Novel energy saving phosphorescent OLED lighting products" project in partnership with IDD Aerospace who has previously developed LED-based aircraft cabin lighting.

InnoSys will pursue a project entitled "Highly efficient and smart power supplies to drive phosphorescent OLED lighting panels." The effort is targeted at enabling OLED usage in mainstream general-lighting applications in residential, commercial, and industrial settings. Today most OLED manufacturers supply standard LED drivers for use with their products, but it has long been recognized that maximum energy efficiency in OLED installations would require a customized driver design.

Plextronics' project is focused on lowering the cost of large-area OLED panels – the most significant roadblock to broader OLED usage. The "Low cost printed electrodes for OLED lighting" project seeks to use inkjet technology and conductive silver ink to simplify the fabrication of anode structures on a panel layer. The company believes the technology can increase the manufacturing through-put on a manufacturing line by eliminating some photolithography steps.

The DOE continues to support OLED projects in parallel with funding LED research. OLEDs trail LEDs in terms of light output and efficacy by several years on the DOEs own roadmaps. But OLED technology, and its ability to inherently to output diffuse light, could still prove a better match for some lighting applications.

The latest awards were part of the FY13 Release 2 Phase 1 congressional allocation. The DOE SSL program is specifically focused on energy-saving opportunities in lighting that it has documented as significant, including new research on potential savings. Moreover, the agency recently noted a National Academy of Science report that documents the DOE's substantive role in furthering SSL deployment.