The LED (light emitting diode) lighting industry, more properly known as the solid-state lighting industry, is at once the subject of intense excitement and impatience. The excitement is valid – provided that it is given just a small dose of patience.
As president of Altair’s ilumisys solid-state lighting subsidiary www.ilumisys.com as well as the Michigan Solid-State Lighting Association I am often asked to speak on the future of the industry. Invariably I end up talking about how the US Department of Energy forecasts for LED efficiency are better that ever, and how the industry has continuously beaten the expected price and performance curves, and yet there seems to be a lot of grumbling that LED lighting somehow hasn’t lived up to expectations. If the expectation was a miracle, then no…but if the expectation was the forecasts for performance made in 2006, then the industry has beaten the socks off their tasks.
The first thing I always do in my talks is knock down some myths. Here are the facts as I see them:
Fact 1: LEDs are very efficient as measured in lumens/watt, and are getting more efficient all the time, but they certainly take more than “no energy”.
Fact 2: LEDs do give off heat – unlike dubious advertising that says they don’t – albeit less of it compared to other light sources in proportion to their light output. The heat given off by LEDs is primarily conductive heat at their circuit junction, thus explaining the need for thermal management in LED lights, and the lack of perceived heat when waving one’s hand over the light.
Fact 3: LEDs do not last forever – particularly if you let them overheat – but they will last for a very long time (50,000+ hours) if you manage the thermals properly.
Fact 4: LEDs can in provide a good payback period against incandescent and fluorescent lights, albeit requiring some initial costs, and the payback periods are rapidly improving. We measure cost efficiency in lumens/dollar, and those numbers are looking very positive.
Fact 5: LEDs can provide a wonderfully high quality of light. No more “blue light specials”.
The requirements for general illumination are now very achievable, and the same factories churning out literally billions of LEDs for consumer electronics are now turning their attention toward the global lighting market. Stay tuned for a lot of industry action as solid-state lighting makes the conversion from the latest new thing to very high-volume manufacturing.