This Elegant, Organic LED Lamp May Be Pricey, But It’s The Future Of Lighting

The light bulb’s reign is over.

If you thought LEDs were the future of lighting, you would be on the cutting edge, but only be partly right. The more far-out future is something called organic LED (organic light-emitting diodes), which offer several advantages over their conventional LED brethren.


Take a look at this lamp created by young engineers from Canada. Called the Aerelight, it produces a diffuse soft light over a wide area–perfect for illuminating a desk or bedside reading. It’s one of the first, if not the first, OLEDs on the market in lamp form.

Organic LEDs are made with a layer of organic material sandwiched between two electrodes supplying an electric current. They can be very thin and flexible, making them more adaptable than a conventional bulb. Already found in TVs and mobile phones, several manufacturers are now working on variations that lay flat on walls or can be incorporated into everyday objects.

“I think we’re getting to a point where lighting shouldn’t require us to change lightbulbs and as a result we shouldn’t allow our lighting design to be constrained by the bulb and socket paradigm that made sense 135 years ago, but doesn’t necessarily make sense today,” says Michael Helander, cofounder of OTI Lumionics, the company behind the Aerelight.

Conventional LEDs have been criticized for producing a lot of blue light that can be harmful for our health. Research indicates LEDs could affect our neurotransmitters and dopamine levels, and disrupt sleep patterns. OLEDs produce a warmer, less aggressive light.

The Aerelight, which costs $239, is now shipping, though you’ll have to wait for yours, because there’s already a backlog. Helander, who started developing the idea as a PhD at the University of Toronto, says it should last 15 to 20 years. It also comes with wireless charging capability, so you can leave a cell phone nearby to be powered up.

“This product shows off a little of what we can do with OLEDs,” Helander says. “The next step is moving to devices built on plastic sheets that are flexible and bendable. You’ll move from lighting as something in a socket to a building material itself that you can integrate into structures and furniture in ways people never thought about before.”

About the author

Ben Schiller is a New York staff writer for Fast Company. Previously, he edited a European management magazine and was a reporter in San Francisco, Prague, and Brussels.