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Energy Department Solid-State Lighting Efforts Spark New Paradigm

March 4, 2016 - 12:49pm


Breakthroughs in solid-state lighting (SSL) technology, driven in part by Energy Department research investments, are leading to sweeping changes in the way lighting experts view the vast economic potential of future lighting systems and their growing benefits to society.

In the latest issue of EERE’s Amped Up! newsletter, Jim Brodrick, EERE’s lighting ace, outlines advances that will reap major U.S. energy and carbon savings, and transform the way people across the globe live and work.

SSL technology is still in its infancy yet holds huge promise for contributing to our nation's climate change goals. And it has become increasingly clear that light can benefit our health and productivity. Based on light-emitting diodes (LEDs) or organic LEDs (OLEDs), SSL could potentially reduce national lighting electricity use by nearly half by 2030–saving $26 billion in today’s dollars. Its other benefits include controllability, directionality, long life, and aesthetic appeal that spell a big business opportunity.

Just last month, Brodrick kicked off the 13th annual DOE SSL Research and Development (R&D) Workshop in Raleigh, North Carolina. Here’s his takeaways from the three-day event that delved into trends shaping SSL technologies and emerging market opportunities:

  • The 13th annual DOE SSL R&D Workshop drew more than 250 participants who came ready to share, learn, and interact with some of the sharpest minds in the lighting industry as well as fields starting to impact lighting in ways previously unimaginable.
  • Light is no longer just for illumination. Panelists from Thomas Jefferson University, the National Research Council of Canada, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology led a discussion on lighting and human factors, highlighting research needs related to SSL and human color perception, physiological responses, and the impact of light on health. Experts from Intel, Philips Lighting, GE Lighting, and Enlighted probed the potential and technology development needs of future connected lighting systems where lights would serve as nodes in a vast global data network.
  • Participants underscored the need to continue improving SSL efficacy, exploring innovative ways to mitigate droop and to improve downconverters.Technical discussions featured experts from Lumileds, OSRAM Opto, Ohio State University, and Soraa Laser Diode, who presided over a session on droop–the phenomenon of reduced LED efficiency at higher applied current density. Top specialists from Carnegie Mellon University, Columbia University, Cree, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology focused on LED package and power-supply issues.
  • The OLED lighting business is starting to gel. Dynamic discussions led by experts from Corning, Princeton University, University of Michigan, and University of California-Los Angeles centered on progress and challenges related to light extraction and integrated substrates. Another session led by experts from Acuity Brands, OTI Lumionics, Innosys, and Workrite Ergonomics examined OLED product development challenges.
  • A poster session featuring the work of more than 50 federally funded R&D projects and hands-on demonstrations representing cutting-edge LED and OLED lighting was another high point of the workshop. Packed wall-to-wall with attendees and presenters engaged in animated conversations, it gave the impression of a carnival of SSL knowledge.

Much remains to be done to improve LEDs and OLEDs from materials to product design to manufacturing. Input from this annual workshop will inform updates to the DOE SSL R&D Plan and future funding opportunities.

Read more on what’s ahead in lighting in the interview with Amped Up!