A few years back, a major breakthrough was made in organic light-emitting diode (OLED) technology (originally created by Thomas Edison) that allowed electrification of a luminescent membrane made from organic compounds.
Futurists pronounced the arrival of a new era of architecture and design in which the surfaces of a structure could actually become the light source, eliminating the need for cumbersome light fixtures and greatly reducing the energy demand for lighting. But upon development, the practicalities of making a lightweight and durable membrane proved challenging.
Now a company called Lomox based in Wales has patented a new chemical composition for their OLED membranes which they say will bring luminescent wallpaper to the market by 2012.
The company was recently awarded a roughly $730,000 (U.S.) grant by the Carbon Trust for their OLED breakthrough, which they say is more than twice as efficient as CFL light bulbs and 90 percent more efficient than regular incandescents, theoretically reducing a building's energy consumption by as much as 10 percent (typically, 11percent of building energy goes to lighting).
Also the lighting quality is much higher, approximating glare-free ambient daylight, which will create additional gains in productivity and reduced costs for electrical fixtures and wiring.
I'm sure a fresh crop of architecture students are eagerly waiting to see if the advent of membrane LED's will make 2012 the dawn of a new, futuristic era of design.