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 The world has finally realized that the incandescent light bulb – a concept dating to Thomas Edison’s day – is obsolete, due to its energy inefficiency.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.
About 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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