While OLED technology is increasingly being applied to things like electronic gadget displays and TVs, it can also serve as an efficient and aesthetically-pleasing form of lighting. A number of companies have capitalized on this fact by marketing OLED lamps, although most of them are quite expensive – prices can range from around US$500 up into the thousands. Canada's OTI Lumionics, however, has developed its own cost-effective OLED lighting system, and incorporated it into the $239 aerelight. I recently got to try one out for myself.
First of all, just what is an OLED, or Organic Light Emitting Diode? Well, essentially it's a thin electroluminescent panel containing carbon-based organic dyes, that emits light when an electrical current is passed through it. As a light source, OLEDs have an electrical efficiency similar to that of LEDs, although they produce a softer, more even light – this is because the light is being emitted from a broad sheet of material, instead of from individual bulbs.
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Additionally, they're said to produce a nicer color temperature of "white" light, plus their thin, flexible form allows for some interesting design possibilities.
... which brings us to the aerelight. As can be seen in the photos, it has a very modern, minimalist form – its light-emitting panel is less than 2 mm thick. There are no controls on the anodized aluminum-bodied lamp whatsoever, with users turning it on and then cycling through three brightness settings simply by touching it anywhere.
At its maximum setting, it puts out 1,000 lux at a warm, incandescent-like temperature of 2,900 K (using just 7 watts of energy as it does so). This certainly proved sufficient to light up my desk area. It would be nice if the angle of the panel could be adjusted, although this is by no means a deal-breaker – because there's no one bright spot of light, glare isn't really an issue. It's also worth noting that unlike the halogen desk lamp which I currently use, it produces no noise whatsoever.
According to OTI, the lighting panel should last for 20 years with a typical usage of three hours per day at maximum brightness.
As an added feature, the designers have built a Qi wireless charging pad into the wood-accented base of the lamp. To charge a Qi-ready smartphone (which I had some difficulty tracking down for testing), you just place it on the pad and the charging begins. It's a handy feature I suppose, although given that most phones still don't incorporate the Qi system, perhaps buyers should have the option of going with a less expensive lamp that doesn't have a charging pad.
All in all, I definitely liked the aerelight – particularly its simplicity, quality of light, and solid feel. OTI is taking preorders now, with shipping planned to start early next year. Buyers can choose between frame colors of black, red and silver.
Product page: aerelightView gallery - 6 images