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Audi, Philips show prototype 3-D OLED taillights

Highly visible display technology can have a curved surface and a multidimensional look.

By Douglas Newcomb Jul 12, 2013 11:24AM

Philips, Audi 3D OLED lighting concept. Photo by Philips.Organic light-emitting diode (OLED) technology is common in consumer electronics products ranging from smartphones to TVs. Now it could be coming to the car, thanks to a recently completed research project called OLED 3D, which involved Audi, Philips and others.

The project culminated this week in the unveiling of what researchers called the world's first large-area 3-D OLED” used in a car, installed on a prototype Audi TT.

But this doesn’t mean a 3-D image will jump from another car's taillights when someone hits the brakes.

In this case, 3-D OLED indicates that LED technology – a very bright, fast-reacting and low-energy light showing up on more new cars – can be used on a curved surface. The OLEDs used on the TT prototype are transparent in some parts, however, and Audi layered several of them to give the impression of light emerging from within the taillight, giving it a multidimensional look.

Merck and the Technical University of Darmstadt, Audi and Philips’ partners in the project, developed new “crosslinkable” red OLED materials that allow the lighting to be produced in multiple layers on formed glass. Philips created the prototype lighting panels, while the University of Cologne conducted research on the manufacturing process. The entire project was funded by the German government to the tune of 5.7 million euros ($7.4 million).

Philips, the lead on the OLED 3D project, didn’t reveal details such as the lifetime of the lighting, its efficiency or cost. And as in consumer electronics products, the OLED 3D concept for the car uses glass panels, so it’s heavier and much more fragile than traditional plastic taillights.

This isn’t the first time that Audi has showed OLED lighting concepts for cars. In 2012, the automaker unveiled three OLED designs, including rear-mounted "swarm” lighting that used small OLED lighting panels to create a single, animated display. And several other automakers,  including Hyundai, Kia, Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen, have shown OLED concepts for the car.

Audi also recently installed a new OLED installation in a conference rooms at its headquarters in Ingolstadt, Germany, that contains 540 OLED panels and a total light output of 58,000 lumens. 

Philips, Audi 3D OLED lighting concept. Photo by Philips.[Source: Philips,]

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