If playing an integral role in millions of smartphone displays and (soon) big-screen TVs weren't enough, the folks at Universal Display (NASDAQ:OLED) have fixed their eyes on aircraft interiors around the world.

On Monday, Universal Display announced (link opens PDF) that it has been awarded a $225,000 Small Business Innovation Researce Phase I grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, through which it "will partner with and subcontract IDD Aerospace/Zodiac Lighting Solutions to evaluate and demonstrate the potential for energy-efficient and cost-effective white OLED lighting panels for aircraft interiors."

I suppose UDC couldn't have found a better partner. IDD Aerospace, for its part, describes itself as "a global leader in the development and supply of state of the art lighting solutions for the aerospace industry," creating "modern and sophisticated lighting solutions that take into account human factors from the comfort of the cabin to the complexity and criticality of flight deck instrumentation." 

The release goes on to highlight the fact that solid-state OLED lighting panels sport a number of advantages over their fluorescent and incandescent counterparts, including "energy savings, reduced fuel consumption and carbon emissions, and minimal space requirements."

That said, both UDC and its licensed customers have long remained hard at work continuously improving both the efficiency and utility of OLED lighting solutions, with those lighting-centric customers most notably including electronics giants like Philips (NYSE: PHG) and their respective Lumiblade series, design extraordinaire Acuity Brands (NYSE: AYI), and LG Chem, which reportedly plans to begin mass-producing the flexible OLED lighting panels shown in the video below, as soon as September:

Even so, keep in mind this is still an early phase SBIR program and OLED lighting remains in the very early stages of development. As a result, investors should continue to temper their expectations with regard to just how quickly OLED lighting can be introduced to and accepted by the mass market.

After all, UDC and its customers still need to solve remaining technical hurdles for OLED lighting including efficiency improvements, encapsulation techniques, manufacturing costs, and infrastructure for mass production. After that, OLED lighting will still face significant headwinds (in the short term, anyway) unseating traditional LED-based lighting solutions from companies like Cree (NASDAQ: CREE), which is currently enjoying its status as the heir apparent for replacing incandescent and fluorescent lights as they're inevitably phased out.

Now that doesn't mean investors should wait to buy shares of Universal Display until OLED light panels hit your local hardware store. To the contrary, just last week I explained why both Universal Display's current dominant position in mobile and the imminent arrival of large-screen OLED TVs was more than enough to entice me to buy more shares for my personal portfolio.

In the end, then, OLED lighting should serve as yet another reminder of Universal Display's immense potential down the road -- and yet another reason to be excited to own shares of Universal Display over the long term.

Fool contributor Steve Symington owns shares of Universal Display . The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Universal Display . Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.