I saw this article on Stuff.co.nz yesterday about Lumiblades, developed by Philips. These new lighting devices will one day replace the methods of lighting we currently use, as they are incredibly energy efficient. As a result, they can be lumped into the broad CleanTech category of technologies that achieve tasks in a more environmentally sustainable manner. These ultra thin lighting devices are based on organic light emitting diodes, (OLED’s for short), essentially special types of plastics that can conduct electricity and emit light.
There is a nice link to NZ here, in that this work stems from that of Victoria University graduate, Alan MacDiarmid (born in Masterton, New Zealand), who helped to pioneer the study of these materials in the 80’s, and then won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for it in 2000. His legacy lives on in NZ in the MacDiarmid Institute of Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology, and also in a new science building being constructed at Victoria University of Wellington. You can view a documentary about his life here.
His work provided a lot of scope, and forms the basis of the flexible electronics industry, which is set to revolutionize electronics in the next 5 years or so. Some products already exist today, but in the future we will see more widespread use of flexible electronics in areas such as:
- electronic textiles,
- flexible batteries
- solar cells,
- display screens you can roll up and put in your bag,
- cheap sensors for a range of biological matter, chemicals, diseases, gas detection
- radio frequency ID tags,
All this, because of a New Zealander. I think that’s pretty cool, and proof that anyone in NZ (even if they’re from Masterton…jokes!) can conquer the world.