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Energy Efficiency Low cost LEDs

Published on June 14th, 2014 | by Tina Casey

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$10 Million More For Low Cost LEDs

June 14th, 2014 by  


The price of a typical high efficiency LED light bulb has been falling off the cliff lately, and it’s going to take another steep dive because the Energy Department has just chipped in $10.5 million for a new push to get more low cost LEDs into more sockets. The money is aimed at taking foundational research that improves efficiency for both LED and OLED technology, and applying it to improved models for commercial development.

Low cost LEDs

Low cost LEDs (image courtesy of Energy Department).

$10.5 Million For Low Cost LEDs

The new low cost LED funding will be distributed among nine one- to two-year projects in six different states. The total Energy Department contribution adds up to $10.5 million. The recipients will chip in an additional $3.7 million for a total of $13.7 all together.

Here’s the breakdown:

1. In Pennsylvania, Carnegie Mellon University is tasked with Novel Transparent Phosphor Conversion Matrix with High Thermal Conductivity for Next-Generation Phosphor-Converted LED-based Solid State Lighting.” That’s fancyspeak for impriving heat transfer.

CMU’s work is expected to achieve thermal conductivity of more than five times over conventional LED technology.

That, in turn, is expected to reduce the price of light by up to 50–60%, as meausred in $/klm.

2. Now, here’s a name that should ring a bell. North Carolina’s Cree has been front and center in the LED market, and just last January the company announced a low cost LED breakthrough that beat the Energy Department’s 2020 goal for demonstrating a 200 lumen-per-watt (LPW) LED.

In this round of funding, Cree will focus on modifying conventional LED manufacturing processes, resulting in more economical, compact products.

3. In Ohio, the company Momentive Performance Materials Quartz, Inc. will do something called “Next-Generation LED Package Architectures Enabled by Thermally Conductive Transparent Encapsulants.” The company will tweak LED technology with nanoscale boron nitride, with the goal of producing higher lumen output at the same cost.

4. In New York, the company OLEDWorks, LLC will live up to its name with a project that examines different combinations of components to determine the most efficient way to improve OLED (organic light emitting diode) performance.

5. In California another familiar name, Philips, pops up in the form of Philips Lumileds Lighting Company, LLC. This project, titledHigh-Voltage LED Light Engine with Integrated Driver,” is aimed at a comprehensive cost reduction.

Philips is casting a wide net with this one. The company aims to reduce the size of the LED package and use fewer components, as well as reducing the weight and size of the housing. If all goes as planned that will also lead to a more simple, less costly fabrication process.

6. In New York, Philips pops up again. This time it’s Philips Research North America, LLC, which will focus specifically on aesthetics, as well as energy efficiency, as applied to patient suites (room + bathroom) in medical facilities.

The expectation is that LEDs can be tailored to contribute patient wellness by providing a more soothing environment, without compromising the lighting needs of the staff.

7. In Maryland there’s a new name on the scene (new to us, at least). A company called Pixelligent Technologies, LLC will use its proprietary sub-10 nm ZrO2 (zirconium oxide) nanocrystals to boost the light extraction efficiency of OLED lighting to the 70 percent level, without compromising other factors.

8. In New Jersey, Princeton University will also work the OLED angle with a project that tackles the efficiency of outcoupling (outcoupling refers to strategies for coaxing light out of OLEDs that is otherwise trapped inside).

Here’s a rather poetic description from the Energy Department:

This project will integrate multiple aspects of outcoupling enhancement within one OLED structure such that the enhancement is greater than the sum of its parts owing to a holistic approach that treats the system as a whole rather than multiple approaches spliced together.

9. In California, the University of of California tackles the OLED cost problem head on by developing a low cost plastic substrate that could replace other expensive components.

U-Cal is aiming its sights high. It expects the cheap substitute to match the quality of high grade ITO glass, while achieving a 200% improvement on light extraction (ITO glass is a glass substrate tarted up with indium tin oxide).

We Built These Low Cost LEDs!

This is actually Round 9 for the Energy Department’s solid state lighting grants for industry and academic partners, which has already proved instrumental in bringing the cost of LEDs down to a reasonable level. So go ahead and pat yourself on the back, taxpayers.

As a side note, the geographic distribution of the grants illustrates yet another way in which the Obama Administration has been pushing an environmental agenda, despite the efforts of (mostly) Republican state and federal legislators and governors to work in the opposite direction.


Count down that list of Round 9 grants and you’ll see nine industry and academic partners in six different states, four of which have Republican governors notorious for their ties to the fossil energy-leaning lobbying organization ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council) and/or the Koch Brothers, who are well known for lobbying on behalf of their extensive fossil energy investments.

Those governors would be Ohio’s John Kasich, Pennsylvania’s Tom Corbett, North Carolina’s Pat McCrory, and New Jersey’s Chris Christie.

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About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.



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