Pushing The Boundaries of LED Light

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By Paul Scheidt, leader of product marketing, LED components, Cree, Inc.

Nestled between the transforming semiconductor and energy industries, the lighting industry is amidst one of the most remarkable shifts of its time. It’s no accident that the 2014 Nobel Prize in physics recently was awarded to three scientists for the invention of efficient blue LEDs and 2015 has been decreed as the International Year of Light by the United Nations. The world has finally realized that the incandescent light bulb – a concept dating to Thomas Edison’s day – is obsolete, due to its energy inefficiency. And compromised alternatives like fluorescent lighting have made light and color quality more important to consumers and businesses than ever.


LED lighting is now commercially viable and can provide better light for every general lighting application. Yet the market for LED lighting is still largely untapped. About $1 trillion of lighting is installed in North America, with less than 5% LED penetration. If you look at any technology in your home or business, your world, really – it’s evolved generationally. TVs, refrigerators, communication, even roads. Lighting is one of the only major industries that remains largely unchanged in more than a century.

Continued breakthroughs are driving the rate of LED adoption. LED adoption, if achieved entirely, would cut lighting-based energy consumption significantly. One of the greatest recent innovations in the technology has been efficient light conversion – getting more light out of an LED, even at higher operating temperatures. With most LEDs, particularly mid-power LEDs, more light requires more LEDs – which equate to more “stuff” needed to create the light – board area, optics – often resulting in less efficiency. With the introduction of high-power LEDs that deliver better performance and a more effective way to achieve low-cost systems, manufacturers are no longer forced to use lower reliability mid-power LEDs to achieve the lowest system cost. In addition, these high-power LEDs allow lighting manufacturers to use up to 26 times fewer LEDs than mid-power LEDs, enabling a smaller board size, beam angle and optic. This concept is proven in Cree’s mini track light design that uses XLamp® CXA1310 High Density LED Array to emit a beautiful, smooth beam while delivering the performance of a 100-watt PAR38 in a 75% smaller form factor. In fact, the Mini CXA HD Punch was awarded the “Lighting for Tomorrow” recognition by the American Lighting Association.

Breakthroughs in LED lumen density have also enabled new high lumen output applications for LED such as bridge and stadium lighting. The iconic San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, for example, now features brighter, crisper light illuminating its 2,074-foot East Span with LED. This massive makeover, completed by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), includes nearly 1,600 custom LED light fixtures by Musco Lighting and 51,500 high-performance LEDs by Cree, enabling an estimated energy savings of 50% and a lifetime of 15 years – more than seven times longer than previously deployed lighting technologies, while increasing the quality of light.

The first major wave of LED adoption was driven by lumens-for-lumens replacement of traditional lighting, in similar form factors. However, these recent LED level technology innovations will drive future adoption by enabling new form factors and performance levels that are previously not possible. Dramatic movement will require the industry to shift its frame of thinking. Lighting manufacturers have been solely focused on LED cost, instead of looking at cost of the system as a whole and in the process, compromising both performance and reliability.

Up until this point, much of the industry has addressed the question, “How do you make cheap LED technology reliable?” In reality, LEDs are no longer the most expensive portion of an LED lighting system, but they do determine the overall system performance and cost. At Cree, we’ve been focused on innovations that enable the lowest system cost while delivering high performance and reliability. We believe that the next generation of LED lighting will produce higher light output and system cost reductions that can inspire new designs at attractive prices.

As proof of this, Cree recently unveiled a new platform for our LEDs, offering an exponential increase in lumen density and reliability – Cree® SC5 Technology™ Platform – which gets to the heart of cost reductions in a monumental way. The SC5 Technology Platform redefines what is possible in high-power LEDs by doubling the lumens out of a single LED, significantly lowering system costs. One of Cree’s new Extreme High-Power (XHP) LEDs, the first commercially available LED to leverage SC5 Technology Platform, can do the work of 48 mid-power LEDs. Cree’s SC5 Technology Platform establishes a new benchmark for LED lumens per wafer, validating that high-power LED technology enables superior lighting system designs and a better lighting experience for end customers.

For consumers – this means new possibilities for better experiences with light – less heat sink, less size, and more flexibility for integrating light into our environment.

At Cree, we believe the best way to predict the future is to create it. And while we anticipate this new way of thinking will illuminate the possibilities of LED lighting in 2015, we’ve only scratched the surface.

Do you have thoughts on the lighting industry and LED? Make sure to post in the comments, and follow Cree in our journey toward 100% LED adoption at www.Cree.com.

Cree® and XLamp® are registered trademarks, and SC5 Technology™ is a trademark of Cree, Inc.

© 2014 Cree, Inc. All rights reserved. For informational purposes only.

Paul ScheidtAbout the Author: Paul Scheidt is Cree’s strategic leader of product marketing leader for Cree’s LED Components division responsible for developing breakthrough ideas, such as application optimization, EasyWhite (single chromaticity bin per CCT), and High Density arrays. Prior to joining Cree in 2005, he did both software and hardware testing at IBM. Paul has an MBA from NC State University where he also graduated with a dual B.S. degree in Computer Engineering and Electrical Engineering.

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18 thoughts on “Pushing The Boundaries of LED Light

  • I think it has been a good idea that Europe phased out the incandescent light bulb by law. Sure, many people threw a hissy fit about government interference, but now everybody is buying LED and almost everybody is over this issue. And China followed as far as I know.

    • i need a 5 sentence summary about this please help

      • TL;DR
        LEDs are awesome
        Cree makes awesome LEDs
        You should have LED lights in your house
        LEDs can save us tons of power and money
        LEDs are awesome

        • Unstated: LEDs can give me tons of power and money.

  • A PR piece, but a good and fair one, Scheidt clearly distinguishes between general trends and the specific innovations of his company he works for. We just need to remember that Cree has rivals innovating on the same tracks.

  • The real competitor of LED are Fluorescent Lamps… The LED has very tiny justifiable economic advantage in terms of per lumen output when you consider the price of the two lamps for a household application. How much energy will you save in using LED compared to CFL? Against incandescent, it is a no brainer issue. But LED vs CFL, not quite sure. CFL’s are less than a tenth of the price of LED’s for the same lumens. Lumens per watt, CFL vs LED, they are at par, sometimes CFL’s are slightly better depending on brand of CFL and LED.

    Of course, I’ve also had bad LED’s that didn’t last as long as CFL’s, but that is now disappearing as better and better LED’s start to come out.

    The fact that CFL’s are way cheaper than today’s LED, less than a tenth of the price of LED at Home Depot and other big box stores, for the high price of LED while not gaining any lighting efficiency over CFL, the LED will have a hard time penetrating the market. Make the price of LED’s just twice the price of today’s CFL, and most everyone will switch to it.

    • – A good LED has an output in lumen per watt easily twice as high as that of a CFL and a longer lifespan. For a frequently used lamp, the long term advantage is clear.

      – For many form factors, there are few or no CFL options. Small formats like G9/G4 don’t even exist and others like GU10 are hard to find. Understandable, given the size of a reasonably powerful fluorescent tube.

      – CFL is not suited for every application. Lights that are frequently cycled (think a bathroom) are ill-suited for CFL, since it absolutely destroys their lifespan.

      In sort, you need a room where you spend long periods at once but only rarely (if often, LED’s will win on price) and that happens to have a traditional form factor lighting element.

      If people behaved rationally and did their math, LED would be dominant with a smaller market for CFL. Sadly, few people do.

      • Larmion,

        Do YOUR math CFL’s typically produce 800 lumens 13 watts. LED bulbs do not “easily” or otherwise produce 800 lumens at 6.5 watts!

        • 90-100 lumens per watt is common in LED lights, especially more powerful ones (see this one for example: http://www.cnet.com/products/osram-60w-replacement-led/ ).

          So yes, it’s 8 rather than 6,5W – still a very large difference.

          The difference becomes much more pronounced in smaller form factors and lower wattages. Take GU10: a philips 7W design emits barely 160 lumen! LED lights seem to lose far less efficiency as they become more compact – I have 5,5W 350 lumen Osram GU10’s lighting the room I’m sitting in, so roughly 70 lumen/watt

          But the difference is also large at the other end of the spectrum: a 20 watt Philips LED TL tube is rated by the company as equivalent to their own 36W TL tubes. Again, not quite double but close.

          And note that Philips and Cree have both announced 250 lumen/W+ products.

      • Lifespan is the key. Over the life of the buib, LEDs come out cheaper, not to mention you don’t have to change a bulb every few years, just every 2 decades, which is nice.

        CFLs also have mercury vapor in them which is not awesome.

    • I’m willing to pay more for LED to avoid the mercury in CFLs, but only to a point. Most of our lighting is 100W or 125W equivalent fluorescent and the lamp we use the most is in an enclosed fixture. There simply were no LED replacements that could put out even 100W brightness in yellow toned light without overheating in an enclosed fixture two years ago. There are now, but they cost around $50 and don’t use much less power than CFL. Nevertheless, I did buy a Switch100 a few months ago when it went on sale for I think $25. It uses somewhat less power than the CFL it replaced, and it’s not quite as bright: 20.5W for 1600 lumen LED vs 26W for 1750 lumen CFL.

      The best high power LED bulbs for enclosed fixtures I’ve found so far are made by Xledia at 16.7W for 1520 lumen, 2700K color. They are the most efficient and generate the least heat of the bulbs I’ve looked at, but I’ve yet to see them under $50 at 1520 lumen or brighter.

      5000K color lights are a lot brighter for their wattage but I was surprised to find the blue tone of the light really bothered me. I’ve had to use 2700K-3000K in common areas.

      If you don’t need lights for enclosed fixtures, there are a lot more options for a lower price in the 100W range and even more at 75W that probably make economic sense vs CFL and certainly vs incandescent.

      I seem to remember a lot of complaints about early failure or buzzing with Cree bulbs, so read the Amazon reviews before purchasing any of these bulbs.

  • The question comes up, “would you replace your present led bulbs with 22 year lifespans which you paid $20 a piece for, with a new led that is twice as efficient, cutting your wattage from 10 down to 5 watts, if the new bulb was $6?”. Yikes. The problem is called the law of diminishing returns. 5 watts is a 50% reduction over 10 watts, but 5 watts is worth (3hours per day= 15 x365= 5.4kwh year savings.) At 15cents kwh 80 cents per year. So 8 year payback over the 10 watt led. But what are you going to do with the $20 bulb that is now worth nothing? If you had it for 3 years that’s $7 year! Ok not a big deal for 1, but how about 15? $105 per year for three years. You have to grin and bear it…it’s the “freakonomics” of energy revolutions.

    • Give the used bulbs to someone who still has incandescents 🙂 you know they’re out there…

  • Cree’s mini track design lamp heads look like they belong on the set of a low budget 1950’s Sci-Fi movie. So whoever at Cree approved that design and whoever at Cree approved using it in an article intended to promote Cree as a leading company should be fired. The stacked stepped oval base, the wide concentric grooves in the head-it is ALL WRONG. The bright finish of the reflector contrast with the dull finish of the exterior-and the finishes by themselves look extremely dull. Do a google image search for “brushed stainless track lighting heads”. Everything you find will look much better than Cree’s mini track. Cree needs new design and engineering talent.

    • Can’t win ’em all. Don’t let a few bad eggs spoil the whole lot. I have tons of their edison base bulbs (e26’s?) and they rock 🙂

  • And other countries should also consider requiring businesses to replace those harmful lights that may continue to destroy our environment. Though, LED lights are quite costly but it’s more worth the price when it lessen the consumption of energy and save us from too much UV rays.

  • LED lights have a wide range of application. They are used both
    indoor and outdoor. LED interior lights are used in offices, houses, hotels and
    hospitals and LED exterior ones are used in outdoor events, parks, public
    places and sign boards. While buying or selecting LED accent lights for
    vehicle, one should consider the quality, popularity, characteristics,
    popularity, style and appearance and price quotient. I know JDMastar provides good quality of LED lights.

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