This could be the start of a whole new area of consumer goods, or it could be just a cute gimmick. Either way, it's incredibly cool. Tech company Rohinni has invented a process to embed LEDs no thicker than human blood cells into a paper matrix than can be shaped and printed. The only drawback so far is that the distribution of LEDs is a tiny bit random, so the light has a shimmering quality. It could lead to self-illuminating signs and display materials, or how about a lampshade that provides a soft night light when the lamp is turned off?
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But he's already figuring it out. That's because Rohinni has developed a form of what it calls Lightpaper. It's a way to print lighting and apply it to nearly any surface, in any shape, and for any situation. It's a kind of stunning proposition that reminds me of the first time I heard about 3-D printing.
'With Lightpaper it's more of a platform of light that we don't even know how it's going to be used,' explains Smoot. 'All we know is that we're trying to unlock the ability to create light.'
In its current state, Lightpaper is manufactured by mixing ink and tiny LEDs together and printing them out on a conductive layer. That object is then sandwiched between two other layers and sealed. The tiny diodes are about the size of a red blood cell, and randomly dispersed on the material. When current runs through the diodes, they light up.
The promise of thin lighting has been simmering for a while, thanks largely to breakthroughs in OLED technology. But nothing viable has come to market, and Lightpaper is much thinner than OLED—which has been able to get TVs down to a fraction of an inch thick—and is lower cost and has a life-span of around 20 years, like LEDs.
Rohinni isn't interested in the entrenched TV market. The company would rather put the technology to use where it can make a big difference soon; everything from illuminating a logo on a mobile phone to providing headlights for a car. A few companies are already working on Lightpaper implementations, but Smoot wouldn't name any."