Double the Power: Two-Use Tile Combines Solar and OLED Technology0

Laurie Stark | Tue Dec 6 2011 |

By day, cities are sun-soaking swaths of concrete and glass. By night, they’re teeming clusters of diodes and filaments with lights so bright you can see them from space.

What if these two chapters were part of the same book: sun powering light and light powering dark? Meidad Marzan, a student at Jerusalem’s Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, wondered the same thing.

Same old, same OLED

Marzan’s new project, UrbanTiles, is a matrix of linking tiles that attach to a building like Venetian blinds. On one side are photovoltaic cells that capture energy as the sun beats down in the day; on the other are OLED (organic light emitting diodes) panels which use that stored solar energy to light interior rooms, act as large TV screens, or even flip outward to create dazzling, skyscraper-high light displays on the outside walls of the building.

Marzan isn’t the only innovator with his eye on OLEDs. In 2010, the OLED market had an estimated worth of over $2 billion, with many experts hailing it as the light of the future.

OLEDs are especially ideal for use as TV screens and monitors as they’re exceptionally bright, highly flexible (think: digital newspaper a la Minority Report), and extremely thin— about 200 times thinner than a strand of hair. Unlike LCD screens, OLEDs can be viewed from a wide variety of angles and have lightning fast response times. They also happen to be pretty darn energy efficient.

So what’s the hold up?

Right now OLEDs aren’t cost-effective for most everyday use. But ten years ago, LCDs were also expensive and difficult to manufacture.

Scientists are working hard to bring down the cost of OLEDs so that one day they can not only light our cities but be printed like paper, folded up in your briefcase, and carried into the solar-powered skyscraper where you work.