Dec 072012

No light source is perfect. With every different light source come consumers and critics who dislike it. We complain incandescent lights don’t last long enough. They use too much energy, give off too much heat, and then that heat jacks up our A/C bills.

Fluorescents and CFLs last longer, but some people are bothered by the small amount of UV rays they emit. Sometimes they might flicker or take a while to reach full brightness. If they break, they release harmful mercury into the environment.

Even the LED, the lighting industry’s golden boy, isn’t perfect. It lacks the incandescent’s beautiful, soothing light quality. LEDs are still expensive, and it can be hard as heck to make them with dimming capabilities.

Clearly, we still have work to do. But now, there’s a new light source that might just give these other guys a run for their money.

It’s called FIPEL. Doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, does it? Well, whatever the name, this new light source could be the answer to the comfortable, efficient light we crave.

 An Enticing New Alternative To Fluorescents, CFLs, and LEDs

Image via Ken Bennett, Wake Forest University Photographer

Continue reading »

 Posted by on December 7, 2012 at 11:23 am
Nov 292012

Light Emitting Diodes 300x198 The Power of Silicon Comes to LEDs
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 262012

Lighting technology never ceases to amaze. This month’s Lighting Roundup is all about new lighting technology, ways to improve your lighting and energy use at home, and some of the most exciting lighting designs and installations I’ve seen in a while!

dezeenSafetyNet Sustainable fishing net by Dan Watson wins James Dyson Award 1 Pegasus Lighting Roundup: Innovations, Upgrades, and Explorations

Image via

In Lighting News…

LightRecycle, a non-profit program to recycle lighting products in British Columbia, recently expanded to recycle all lighting products at no charge – the first program of its kind in Canada. The program began in 2010, and it caters to both commercial and residential clients.

Dan Watson, a graduate of the Royal College of Art, won this year’s James Dyson Award for his sustainable fishing net called SafetyNet. This special trawler fishing net uses strategically placed holes and LED lights to separate fish of different ages and species. These illuminated “exit signs” allow smaller non-marketable fish to escape.

Continue reading »

 Posted by on November 26, 2012 at 11:33 am
Nov 022012

LED Mini Guide Lights 300x195 Rise…And Shine That Blue Short Wavelength Light
Kids these days. They haven’t got it easy. According to the Center for Disease Control, almost 70% of school children don’t get their full 8 hours of sleep on most school nights. Whether this is due to heavy workloads, intense extracurriculars, goofing off, or simply having an overactive mind, the resulting problems are the same. Inadequate sleep has been linked to things like depression, behavioral problems, poor academic performance, drug use, and car accidents.

However, a recent study led by Mariana Figueiro and Mark S. Rea of the Lighting Research Center (LRC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute may have found an unexpected remedy for stressed, sleep-deprived kids: blue light.

To understand the study, first we need to know a little bit about the human body.

The Cortisol Awakening Response

The hormone cortisol, produced by the adrenal gland, operates on a 24-hour cycle, helping regulate our bodies navigate in and out of sleep. Concentrations of cortisol reach a minimum at bedtime and a peak in the morning. Levels hit their max in the first hour of waking, this is called the Cortisol Awakening Response or CAR.

Experts associate a high CAR with better preparedness for the stresses and challenges of the day.

So how the heck does blue light factor in? Well, we’ve already seen how short-wavelength light can suppress melatonin to keep you awake at night (read more on that here), so it’s not surprising that it has an influence on us in the morning. Continue reading »

 Posted by on November 2, 2012 at 11:21 am
Oct 302012
bytelight 300x192 Guiding Lights for the Great Indoors

Image via

Holiday shopping is already beginning – that time of year when we dart frantically from aisle to aisle trying to find just the right gifts for our friends and family, and to ready our homes for the season. But imagine with me for a moment what it would be like to have your own personal guide to help you map out an efficient route through the store. No more combing aisles to find that perfect shoe-rack, or having to book it the entire length of a Super Target to get that pair of headphones you forgot.

A new startup called ByteLight is working on an innovative new idea for an indoor GPS-like system with the help of LEDs and smartphones. The idea is to have an app or program for the phone that guides shoppers to find exactly what they’re looking for within a store (and even find discounts on products).

Instead of sending a signal out to space like a normal GPS, your phone would connect wirelessly with the LED lights in the store to guide you where you want to go.

For the system to function, the LED light bulb would blast a specially designed light signal to the camera of your smartphone to determine your location. The signal would consist of blinking patterns of light, too rapid for the human eye to notice. The technology would be able to detect a person’s location within one meter, and do it in less than a second.

To get the system to actually work for you, ByteLight’s software would need to be installed on your smartphone and the LED lights would need a special chip to send the signal.

The chip within the LED would be cheap to add, and would use the shopper’s location to help them find their way to the products they want, also delivering targeted ads. Any current smartphone camera would work with the system. Continue reading »

 Posted by on October 30, 2012 at 10:26 am
Oct 292012

LIFX 300x225 Pegasus Lighting Roundup: Getting Smarter

Image via

In lighting news…

Over the past month, I’ve seen so many smart-controlled energy efficient light bulbs popping up on the market, growing what calls “The Internet of Things,” in which objects (and not just people) communicate over the web. Each light bulb has an Internet IP address that you monitor wirelessly with a smartphone, tablet, or computer. Some popular models include LIFX (featured on Light Reading earlier this month), and Philips’ Hue coming to Apple Stores tomorrow, October 30!

According to, New York City was the first U.S. jurisdiction to publicly post energy efficiency information for its building stock last month. A series of mind-numbing spreadsheets might not seem so exciting at first, but this is a key step in establishing energy transparency in the real estate market.

In lighting tips…

EnergyStar Pegasus Lighting Roundup: Getting SmarterSpeaking of energy efficiency, have you seen the new Home Advisor from It’s an online resource that gives you detailed information on just about every way you can save energy at home. All you have to do is answer a few simple questions (Where you live, how you heat/cool your home, etc.) and they’ll give you a list of everything you can do to save a little more power. Continue reading »

 Posted by on October 29, 2012 at 11:53 am
Oct 172012

Check it:

buckingham palace pink UK Goes Pink With Light For Breast Cancer Awareness

Image via

They’re not playing around across the pond this year when it comes to breast cancer. The Breast Cancer Campaign partnered with the city of London earlier this month to turn some famous landmarks pink with light.

Besides Buckingham Palace, the list includes (but isn’t limited to):

The Tower of London

Tower of London UK Goes Pink With Light For Breast Cancer Awareness

Image via

Continue reading »

 Posted by on October 17, 2012 at 9:51 am
Oct 022012
The Bay Lights 300x168 25,000 LEDs For The Bay Bridges 75th Year

Courtesy of Leo Villareal

It’s not every artist’s dream to have a 500-foot canvas that’s also an international icon, but that’s what Leo Villareal and his lighting team couldn’t be more thrilled about. This month, crews will begin constructing a massive light-art installation on San Francisco’s famous Bay Bridge.

First conceived 2 years ago by Ben Davis of Words Pictures Ideas (a communications firm that does work for Caltrans), “The Bay Lights” will cover 1.8 miles of the bridge’s northern face with 25,000 programmable LEDs suspended on cables. The team plans to have it finished by March, when they’ll debut it with a grand lighting celebration just in time for the bridge’s 75th anniversary.

Leo Villareal, the artist in charge, plans to use intricate sequences and algorithms to display light patterns based on movements around the bridge. He’s best known for his piece “Multiverse,” made of 41,000 LEDs in the tunnel that connects the two wings in Washington’s National Gallery of Art. Villareal hopes to bring the same elegant orchestration to The Bay Lights. You can see the concept in this video:

Continue reading »

 Posted by on October 2, 2012 at 10:19 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.”     

Downton Abbey 1024x576 The Quest for Quality Light

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 272012
Twisted Light 300x300 Top Speed Data Transmission Brought To You By Twisted Light

Courtesy of Nature Photonics

Wild lighting is no longer just for discotheques and laser tag – it has the potential to revolutionize the way we communicate.

Researchers at the University of Southern California have found that when they combine twisted beams of light, they can transmit data at a startling speed – over 85,000 times faster than standard broadband cable. To put it in perspective, at that speed you could transmit 70 full-length DVDs in a single second.

How does it work? Alan Willner, an electrical engineering professor at USC explained it in the Nature Photonics journal in June, and I’ll explain it now.

Light is just a group of photons that the researchers could direct in infinite ways at very high speeds. The study employed beam-twisting “phase holograms” to coax the beams of light into helical shapes as they spread in free space. Each beam, twisted in a unique way, was encoded with “1” or “0” data bits, making each beam an autonomous data stream – much like different radio channels. Continue reading »

 Posted by on September 27, 2012 at 10:47 am

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