Lighting Research Center Lighting Research Center
    Volume 8 Issue 1
October 2004    
color rendering index (CRI) - A rating index commonly used to represent how well a light source renders the colors of objects that it illuminates. For a CRI value of 100, the maximum value, the colors of objects can be expected to be seen as they would appear under an incandescent or daylight spectrum of the same correlated color temperature (CCT). Sources with CRI values less than 50 are generally regarded as rendering colors poorly, that is, colors may appear unnatural. correlated color temperature (CCT) - A specification for white light sources used to describe the dominant color tone along the dimension from warm (yellows and reds) to cool (blue). Lamps with a CCT rating below 3200 K are usually considered warm sources, whereas those with a CCT above 4000 K usually considered cool in appearance. Temperatures in between are considered neutral in appearance. Technically, CCT extends the practice of using temperature, in kelvins (K), for specifying the spectrum of light sources other than blackbody radiators. Incandescent lamps and daylight closely approximate the spectra of black body radiators at different temperatures and can be designated by the corresponding temperature of a blackbody radiator. The spectra of fluorescent and LED sources, however, differ substantially from black body radiators yet they can have a color appearance similar to a blackbody radiator of a particular temperature as given by CCT. efficacy - The ratio of the light output of a lamp (lumens) to its active power (watts), expressed as lumens per watt. spectral power distribution (SPD) - A representation of the radiant power emitted by a light source as a function of wavelength. blackbody radiator - A temperature radiator of uniform temperature whose radiant output in all parts of the spectrum is the maximum obtainable from any temperature radiator at the same temperature. Such a radiator is called a blackbody because it absorbs all the radiant energy that falls upon it. All other temperature radiators can be classed as non-blackbodies. Non-blackbodies radiate less in some or all wavelength intervals than a blackbody of the same size and the same temperature. chromaticity - The dominant or complementary wavelength and purity aspects of the color taken together, or of the aspects specified by the chromaticity coordinates of the color taken together. It describes the properties of light related to hue and saturation, but not luminance (brightness). color appearance - The resultant color perception that includes the effects of spectrum, background contrast, chromatic adaptation, color constancy, brightness, size and saturation. color consistency - The measure of how close in color appearance random samples of a lamp or source tend to be. color matching - The action of making a color appear the same as a given color. Often used as a method of evaluating the ability of a light source to render colors faithfully. color stability - The ability of a lamp or light source to maintain its color rendering and color appearance properties over its life. The color properties of some discharge light sources may tend to shift over the life of the lamp. full-spectrum index (FSI) - A mathematical measure of how much a light source's spectrum deviates from an equal energy spectrum, based on the slope of its cumulative spectrum. full-spectrum color index (FSCI) - A mathematical transformation of full-spectrum index into a zero to 100 scale, where the resulting values are directly comparable to color rendering index. An equal energy spectrum is defined as having an FSCI value of 100, a “standard warm white” fluorescent lamp has an FSCI value of 50, and a monochromatic light source (e.g., low pressure sodium) has an FSCI value of 0. gamut area - A measure of color rendering based upon volume in color space. It is the range of colors achievable on a given color reproduction medium (or present in an image on that medium) under a given set of viewing conditions. hue - The attribute of a light source or illuminated object that determines whether it is red, yellow, green, blue, or the like. isotemperature - A set of coordinates within which all points have the same temperature. In a color space diagram, isotemperature lines represent lights with identical correlated color temperatures. metamers - Lights of the same color but of different spectral power distribution. photopic - Vision mediated essentially or exclusively by the cones. It is generally associated with adaptation to a luminance of at least 3.4 cd/m2. primary - Any one of three lights in terms of which a color is specified by giving the amount of each required to match it by additive combination.
What is the relationship between lamp efficacy and color rendering?

Among practical light sources, lamp efficacy, expressed in lumens/watt (lm/W), is highest when it provides radiant power within a narrow range of wavelengths near the peak of the photopic luminous efficacy function V(l) (Rea 2000). This typically results in limited color rendering. For example, high-pressure sodium (HPS) lamps have very high efficacy (125 lm/W) but low values of color rendering (CRI, FSI and GA). However, more modern lighting technologies, including T5 and rare-earth phosphor T8 fluorescent lamps and metal halide lamps, provide light across the visible spectrum, exhibit good luminous efficacy, and render colors well.

Figure 14, which consists of a series of seven graphs, illustrates a new method devised by NLPIP to represent values of color rendering index (CRI), full-spectrum color index (FSCI), gamut area (GA), and lamp efficacy for various electric light sources. For a selected light source, the three color rendering metric values are shown as tri-color vectors while the lamp efficacy value is shown as an achromatic (gray or black) vector. To make full-spectrum index (FSI) more directly comparable to CRI, FSI values have been converted to a 0-100 scale, to be called full-spectrum color index (FSCI), where, by definition, an equal energy spectrum has the maximum FSCI value of 100 and a "standard warm white" fluorescent lamp has an FSCI value of 50, and any values less than zero (e.g. monochromatic light) are set to zero.

To make GA more directly comparable to CRI and FSCI, GA values have been scaled so that an equal energy spectrum has a GA value of 100. Electric light sources cannot have CRI or FSCI values greater than 100, but both GA and lamp efficacy values can exceed 100. Also illustrated in these plots with light gray shading are the three color rendering metric values for an equal energy spectrum, which serves as a convenient, but arbitrary, reference source. An equal energy spectrum has a CRI value of 95, an FSCI value of 100 and a GA value of 100. Despite the fact that an equal energy spectrum can render all colors, its CRI is less than 100, because only CRI's reference sources (incandescent and daylight) can achieve an ideal CRI score. Several sources (e.g., ceramic metal-halide and some T8 fluorescent lamps) have CRI, FSCI and GA values close to those calculated for an equal energy spectrum.

Figure 14. Color characteristics of several light sources

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