Nov 292012

Silicon is amazing. We’ve all seen what those tiny silicon chips have done for computers in the past few decades – they’ve gone from mysterious machines to ubiquitous household objects capable of the stuff of dreams. Now, Bill Watkins, CEO of Bridgelux proposes silicon is about to do the same for LEDs.

Where Silicon Can Take Us

Silicon could revolutionize the solid-state lighting (SSL) industry. It has the potential to make light sources like LEDs faster, cheaper, and more functional.

Current SSL lights like LEDs have already come leaps and bounds ahead of older light sources like fragile incandescent lights, but with silicon, we could see them overcome the light socket completely, and become embedded in stairs, cabinets, and other household fixtures. They could also have added features like motion sensors or color changing abilities, so you can easily alter your home’s mood at will.

SSL Today

So technically speaking, why is silicon so great? Well, since the ‘60s, silicon has dominated high technology. It allows innovators many advantages in creating new digital products because it’s cheap to make, and holds structure well. You can shrink things like transistors without destroying their functionality with silicon.

Currently, light emitting diodes (the semiconductors that generate light inside SSL light bulbs and fixtures) are a rare digital technology that doesn’t rely on silicon. Continue reading »

 Posted by on November 29, 2012 at 12:16 pm
Nov 132012

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Most of us who were around in the ‘90s remember those light-up sneakers that every kid just had to have. With their flashing red lights, blinking with every step, those shoes seemed like the epitome of cool.

Today, light-up clothing is not just a nostalgic remnant of childhood – it’s at the forefront of innovative design. With new LED technology, light-up clothes can reach new levels of constructional and aesthetic sophistication.

Enter CuteCircuit, a fashion tech company created by Francesca Rosella and Ryan Genz. CuteCircuit first came to my attention when Katy Perry wore one of their light up dresses to the Met Gala in 2010. Continue reading »

 Posted by on November 13, 2012 at 12:51 pm
Nov 072012

A long, long time ago, in 1932 to be exact, a tradition began. A simple searchlight atop the Empire State Building announced the election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt as President.

If you watched last night’s election results (or were conveniently somewhere in NYC) you probably saw that iconic building at it again. Last night’s exhibition marked the Empire State Building’s first use of its new custom LED panel technology.

CNN joined forces with the building to project a running tally atop the spire, presenting real-time election results with a brilliant display of colored light. The lights were visible from miles around, and broadcast worldwide to CNN’s viewers.

In case you didn’t see it last night, the lights worked like this: The four sided tower atop the building was lit in patriotic red, white, and blue stripes. The mast functioned as a meter with two blue sides, and two red to represent President Obama and Gov. Romney’s respective electoral votes. As each state was projected by CNN, and electoral votes were allocated to each candidate, the meter displayed a running tally.

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Continue reading »

 Posted by on November 7, 2012 at 9:52 am
Oct 102012

50 years ago yesterday, Nick Holonyak Jr. demonstrated the first LED to General Electric suits. Back then, while the only existing LED emitted crimson infrared light, Holonyak predicted his invention would replace standard household incandescent light bulbs. Today LED manufacturers haven’t stopped being idealistic.

Since LEDs have only been around for half a century, the 20, 25, 30 year expiration dates on the brand new technology might be difficult to believe. Honestly, LEDs have barely been around long enough to find a niche in the market, let alone undergo 20, 25, 30 years of definitive testing. The claims and the benefits of LEDs are impressive, but how can we make sure they’re not a farce?

Enter the U.S. Department of Energy and their new Lighting Facts program, created to help you navigate the teeming sea of new lighting technology. The program addressed this issue of LED luminaire depreciation in depth, to help people like you and me know what we’re getting into.

How do manufacturers come up with these numbers?

Instead of traditional testing, where a large sample of lamps are operated until 50% burn out, developers must determine an LED’s rated life a different way. Since the LED doesn’t burn out, but dims gradually, the rated life comes from the estimated lumen depreciation, not accounting for other causes of decline.

What causes LED failure?

Other factors besides age that might increase the rate of gradual dimming include:

  • Exposure to extreme temperatures
  • Contact with moisture and humidity
  • Voltage and current fluctuations
  • Driver or other electrical component failure
  • Damage to material encapsulating the LEDs
  • Damage to any wire bonds connecting the LED to the fixture
  • Degradation of phosphors

Since very few of us live in sterile, mellow, laboratory-like houses, the entire light bulb’s rated life will not live up to the life span of its LED. Continue reading »

 Posted by on October 10, 2012 at 11:13 am
Oct 092012

LIFX: The Latest in LED Technology

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Remember when clap-on, clap-off lights came out? It was the coolest thing to control the lights without leaving your seat. Well, what if you could control your lights to turn on and off, dim, change colors, and even respond to the beat of your iTunes library, all from the comfort of your favorite easy chair? That would take a lot of clapping.

Phil Bosua, creator of the LIFX smartbulb has decided to spare you the obligation (but not the desire) to thunderously applaud, allowing you to control his revolutionary lamp with your smartphone.

“It’s not like we get up to change the TV channel anymore,” said Bosua, “So why do that with our lights?”

The LIFX smartbulb is a self-contained LED light bulb, so all you need to do to utilize its numerous abilities is screw it into your light socket, and download the free app from iTunes or Google Play.

Photo via

Bosua didn’t design this light with merely lethargy in mind – its technological advancements also have the potential to improve your wellbeing. Here are a few things you can do with the LIFX: Continue reading »

 Posted by on October 9, 2012 at 11:02 am
Sep 282012

Since the advent of the incandescent (and even before), quality of light has been on the tip of everyone’s tongue. Regrettably, that quality has mostly been unfortunate. When incandescent lights were the only choice, the early 20th century population complained about the glare and the possible dangers of electricity.

Case in point: on an episode of Downton Abbey (Masterpiece’s smash hit about an elite family living on an estate in the early 1900’s), the prim and hilarious Dowager Countess laments the new electric lamps:

“Such a glare! I couldn’t have electricity in the house – I wouldn’t sleep a wink. All those vapors seeping about. Feels as if  I were on stage at the Gaiety.”     

The Countess shielding herself from the electric lights. Courtesy of Downton Abbey.

Not only were people of the time dissatisfied with the brightness of the lights, they also were afraid electricity was going to leap out of the walls and plug points and infect them!

Even when fluorescent and mercury vapor lights came along in the 1930s, their blue-green hues and poor color rendering indexes made them sorry alternatives. The people were left to compare the poor quality of gas-discharge lamps vs. the poor quality of phosphor-generated lights vs. the incandescent lights they had learned to live with.

Finally, according to the LIGHTimes Online, quality of light may be gaining a positive spin thanks to LEDs. Yes, like many of the lights before them, LEDs have provided their share of poor quality with cheaply manufactured lamps that claimed way more than they actually could deliver. But now, all the major LED manufacturers have incorporated quality of light into their daily vocabulary. Continue reading »

 Posted by on September 28, 2012 at 12:27 pm
Sep 112012

First, there was Romeo and Juliet. Then, there was Jack and Rose. Now, there’s the LED and the dimmer, and unlike the tragic couples preceding them, these two actually have a happy ending…

It all started not too long ago.

First there was the irresistible dimmer switch, ready to help people save some money on their energy bills and make houses look nice. It was a simpler, easier time – every incandescent and halogen light bulb in the land quickly succumbed to the dimmer’s charms, and life was pleasant.

Then, along came a beautiful, exotic, energy-saving LED light bulb, and our usually smooth, collected dimmer just couldn’t handle it. The dimmer and the LED tried to make it work together, but they drove each other crazy. Unlike the elementary filament lamps, the LED’s outlandish yet attractive electronic construction baffled the dimmer so it couldn’t function properly, and the dimmer’s ill-informed advances cause the LED only pain and suffering (aka malfunction).

Strange, destructive things began to happen. Sometimes the LED would turn off before the dimmer reached its lowest setting (a syndrome we now know as “drop-out”). Other times, the LED wouldn’t turn on until the dimmer’s slider moved up (a syndrome we now know as “pop-on”). If that wasn’t bad enough, the toxic relationship reached the point where the LED would flicker, change colors (usually from warm white to cool white), and just refuse to light up. The dimmer couldn’t protect the LED from possibly damaging current spikes, and the stress of the whole situation even reduced the LED’s rated life!

Continue reading »

 Posted by on September 11, 2012 at 11:33 am
Aug 062012

Astronauts in space. New research shows a fresh lighting scheme could help astronauts sleep better, and oh boy, do they need it.

Astronauts are allotted 8.5 hours for sleep out of every 24, but they actually average about 6 hours a night. Their leisure time is prone to occasional disruptions (emergency or docking procedures), plus there’s a new sunrise every 90 minutes, and of course that whole weightlessness thing. On month and even year-long missions (like the speculated 3 year voyage to Mars), it’s pretty darn easy to get frazzled.

When NASA announced they were planning to switch the space station’s outdated fluorescents to LEDs, Dr. George Brainard, a professor of neurology from Thomas Jefferson University, had a few ideas. Not only would the LEDs be more efficient and longer lasing than fluorescents, they could be beneficial for astronaut health. Continue reading »

Aug 012012

The London Olympics are certainly on the tip of nearly everyone’s tongue (and Twitter account) at the moment, but did you know there used to be many different kinds of Olympic competitions? From 1912 to 1952, the Olympics featured art competitions in fields like literature, painting, sculpting, music, and architecture. Check out this little goody from the 1948 London Olympics:

1948 Gold Medal Etching

Courtesy of

This piece, entitled “Swimming Pool” by French artist Albert Decaris won gold in the Engravings and Etchings competition.

In 1949, the International Olympic Committee decided to stop all art competitions, reasoning that it was illogical to let professional artists compete, while only amateur athletes were eligible. Instead, cultural festivals replaced the art competitions, and still do to this day. There’s still a chance for the best of the best artists and entertainers to showcase their stuff on an international stage, and for lighting designers, this is certainly a world class exhibition.  Continue reading »

Jul 172012

Ah…the possibilities. In our July lighting roundup, we mentioned The Clean Revolution campaign, launched at the 2012 Rio+20 Earth Summit in Brazil. The campaign is advocating a massive scale-up of clean energy and infrastructure, along with smart technologies and design. In the next 3 years, The Clean Revolution plans to raise awareness about the success of low-carbon transformations.

The great minds at The Clean Revolution recently created this informative infographic about how much energy we can save with LEDs. We think it’s worth sharing.

Infographic: LEDs Lighting the Clean Revolution
To learn more, visit

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