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GE demonstrates printed OLEDs for flexible lighting

The ability to "print" organic light-emitting diodes could bring down the cost of flexible, energy-efficient lights.

Your next lightbulb could come off a printing press.

General Electric's Global Research organization said Tuesday that it is the first to demonstrate roll-to-roll manufacturing for organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs)--a move that can dramatically lower costs.

OLEDs have been touted as the next generation of lighting and displays for consumer electronics like TVs.

They are very energy-efficient, are made out of flexible material, and can be tuned to give off different colors of light.

Printed electronics: GE's OLED lighting. GE

As part of its Ecomagination initiative, GE is investing in the technology in an effort to make it a viable replacement for incandescent or fluorescent bulbs.

The demonstration of a roll-to-roll production, similar to how a newspaper is printed on rolls, has the potential to lower the manufacturing costs and make the end product cost-competitive with existing lighting, according to GE.

This printing process is being pursued by solar manufacturers as well, including Konarka, which is making solar cells from plastic.

GE demonstrated a transparent OLED, made at its research lab, to reporters last October and said it hoped to have OLED lighting devices available by 2010. (For a photo gallery of OLEDs and GE's Global Research lab, click here).

The roll-to-roll manufacturing machine will be used for further research, company said.