Thin is in, especially regarding digital displays like television and laptop screens. Now new graphene-based electrode technology has been developed which promises to provide affordable glowing displays which can be applied as wallpaper or applied to ceilings to provide a green, energy-saving alternative to light bulbs, according to ScienceDaily.com.
Today's ultra-thin lighting technology is mostly based on organic light diodes called OLEDs, which are widely used commercially in everything from mobile phones to televisions. Although OLEDs are fairly energy efficient, they have two major drawbacks: they are relatively expensive to produce, and they consist of the metal alloy indium tin oxide which is rare and complicated to recycle.
These concerns are part of what led Swedish researchers from Linköping and Umeå universities, in coalition with American colleagues, to develop a new alternative to the flat screen. Based on organic light-emitting electrochemical cells (or LECs), the transparent electrode is made of the carbon material graphene.
"By using graphene instead of conventional metal electrodes, components of the future will be much easier to recycle and thereby environmentally attractive," said one of the scientists, Nathaniel Robinson from Linköping University.
And since LEC parts can be produced from liquid solutions, they can be produced as large, flexible sheets from a printing press. Such a manufacturing process would be cost-effective, and it would pave the way for inventive methods of using the materials, as with developing glowing wallpaper.
Although glowing wallpaper based on OLED technology has been envisioned and developed before, its excessive cost and the rarity of idium tin oxide made it an unlikely and impractical alternative for home lighting. With LEC technology, however, those obstacles are gone.
Once made commercially viable, glowing wallpaper could provide better widespread lumination across a room than traditional lightbulbs, be more energy efficient, easier to recycle, and create a super-cool, Tron-like atmosphere. Furthermore, the raw material for the fully organic and metal-free LEC is inexhaustible and can even be recycled as fuel.
The technology could also make it possible to frequently change wallpaper patterns and designs, or even take a room's occupant from a virtual tropical beach setting to the top of Mount. Everest with the click of a switch.