Owing to higher energy efficiencies and the ability to create novel lighting products, the adoption of solid-state lighting (SSL), such as organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) and carbon nanotubes, in place of incandescent and fluorescent luminaires, appears to be more than a passing trend. In fact, a recent report by Nanomarkets, a Glen Allen, Va.-based industry analyst firm, says the market for printed and organic lighting will exceed $2.9 billion within the next five years. By 2014, this figure is forecast to reach $5.9 billion.

According to Nanomarkets, the majority of new business will come from backlighting, general illumination, and architectural /specialty industrial lighting applications, as well as opportunities in vehicular lighting, signage, and a variety of niche markets. Other key findings of the report include:

  • As much as 38% of the cost of LCD displays can be attributed to backlighting. Therefore, the use of OLEDs — particularly printed OLEDs — will result in reduced costs. Although backlighting is an area where high-brightness LEDs (HB-LEDs) have made significant inroads, the OLED's ability to deliver light over a wide area makes them more suitable than point source HB-LEDs. As a result, OLED backlighting is expected to generate $1.9 billion in revenue by 2014. “The irony is that with an OLED display, you don't need a backlight,” says Lawrence Gasman, principal analyst for NanoMarkets. “Thus, as OLEDs progress as a display technology, they're likely to hurt OLEDs as a backlighting technology.”

  • OLEDs will transform general illumination markets. An incandescent bulb has a typical life of 1,000 hours while OLED lights have already been reported with lives up to 100,000 hours of operation, although figures under 10,000 hours are more common. Various government projects in the United States and Europe have targeted OLED general illumination products for funding. Thus, this segment of the OLED lighting market is predicted to generate $1.4 billion by 2014.

  • These technologies will enable inventive kinds of architectural and specialty industrial lighting products that will give architects and designers the ability to create entirely new forms of lighting. “This means you could have lit up walls,” says Gasman. “It might mean mood lighting and also applications in transportation.”

  • This ability to enhance both functionality and aesthetics will lead to revenues of $1.3 billion in 2014. By that time, lighting markets based on carbon nanotubes (CNTs) will be worth approximately $520 million. Much of this lighting will be printed. Because CNT lighting is rugged and cost efficient, it has the potential to create novel products, such as transparent signage. In addition to attracting attention from major electronics firms in Japan, CNT is also receiving funding from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).