25,000 LEDs For The Bay Bridge’s 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:


The Quest for Quality Light

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. (more…)

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. (more…)

Pegasus Lighting Roundup: Updates and Renovations

This month, more of us are trading out old light fixtures for (surprise) LEDs. Others are re-purposing old lights in illuminating ways…

In Lighting News…

Cree’s New 10-year Warranty on LEDs. Just this week Cree (a notable LED manufacturer) introduced a 10 year warranty on nearly all new commercial light fixtures. For many of us still skeptical about the quality of LEDs on the market today, Cree’s commitment to long-term performance and reliability is a relief.

LED Makeover of Miami Tower
Courtesy of MiamiHerald.com

Notable LED Makeovers at Home and Abroad.  Everywhere more and more iconic structures and events are adopting LED lights. A few recent additions include:

  • The Miami Tower: This beautiful upgrade allows for custom light shows and will reduce the 47-story building’s related lighting energy usage by over 92%.
  •  LSU’s Tiger Stadium: The 90-year-old, 92,000seat stadium stepped up its game with a multicolor, LED lighting system. It enhances the structure’s architecture, and fans love it!  
  • Oktoberfest: One of Frankfurt’s most popular tents, the Hippodrome, just replaced its 25-watt incandescent light bulbs with 550 5-watt LEDs. The warmly lit atmosphere won’t change, but they’ll save about 1.2 tons in CO2 emissions.    

LEDs Increase Plant Growth. Researchers at Penn State conducted a recent experiment, testing the benefits of using LED grow lights against more traditional fluorescent and incandescent light bulbs. The results were astounding. Not only did LEDs cost less to operate and maintain, but they also caused a noticeable increase in plant growth.

Plant Growlights
Plants grown with LEDs are on the left. Photo courtesy of the Penn State Department of Public Information.


Do Smartphones Really Use Smart Lighting?

Touching a Tablet Screen
It’s the start of a new school year and the iPhone 5 has just splashed down on the scene. That can only mean one thing: we’re all spending more time staring at screens. But who can blame us? At times you have no choice but to stay up late catching up on current events, and when you’re not doing that, who can resist watching the latest episode of The Tonight Show?

In light of this (pun intended) I think a recent study on self-luminous technology led by Mariana Figueiro of the Lighting Research Center (we’ve seen her before) hits especially close to home. Results show that using glowing devices like tablets and smartphones before bed can lead to muddled circadian rhythms.

How Does It Happen?

The bluish, bright light emitted from the screens of our favorite devices comes in short wavelengths, and prolonged exposure to this can decrease melatonin levels in our bodies. Using a tablet or smartphone for more than two hours at a time can suppress melatonin levels by 22%, according to the study.

Melatonin is the hormone that helps regulate circadian rhythm, produced in the pineal gland at night to help the body fall and remain asleep. Wonky levels can cause insomnia, sleep disruption, and even lead to diabetes and obesity. In the most extreme cases, after years of circadian disruption (as seen in night shift workers), subjects have even been more prone to diseases like breast cancer. (more…)

Pegasus Lighting Roundup: Dreamers, Skeptics, and Current Affairs

Comedy and Tragedy
Surprise, surprise, everyone’s talking about energy efficient lighting. We’re no exception in this blog post. But here’s a twist: not everything we’ve heard recently is as bright and pretty as a brand new LED. This lighting roundup is a mixed bag…

In lighting news…

New energy efficient lighting has the potential to supercharge the job market in Michigan. Jay Wrobel, Executive Director of the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance explained, “Michigan is on the cusp of becoming a manufacturing leader in one of the advanced technologies of the 21st century. New energy efficient lighting technologies provide an ideal platform for new jobs and energy savings in Michigan.” As the demand for LEDs increases, so will the supply of jobs. You can learn more MWAlliance.org.

Meanwhile, though the 2012 Summer Olympics have ended, London is only beginning to reap the benefits of their new LED lighting installations. The new lights on the Tower Bridge (more than 2km of GE Lighting’s Tetra Contour architectural LED lighting installed just in time for the games) are expected to last the city at least 25 years, while saving 40% of the bridge’s previous energy consumption.

London's Tower Bride in LEDs
Courtesy of Olympic.org

While energy efficient lighting seems to always be on our minds and in our light fixtures, there are times when we must realize it’s still a developing technology. The PLUS (Public Lighting Strategies for Sustainable Urban Spaces) project conducted a recent study on LEDs as a possible solution for the problem of finding energy efficient public lighting. The study determined that LED lights are one of the most energy efficient options, but they might not be the best answer for all cities at the moment. LEDs certainly offer a new set of innovative possibilities, but today they’re not the final answer. Many cities are better off waiting until the cost of LEDs goes down, or until the rapidly improving technology reaches a relative stasis. (more…)