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Troy, NY -  9/9/2003

New publication examines and explains “full-spectrum” lighting

* What is it? What does it do for us? Is it worth the price? *

The National Lighting Product Information Program (NLPIP), administered by the Lighting Research Center (LRC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, has released a new publication that takes a hard look at full-spectrum lighting. Lighting Answers: Full Spectrum Light Sources examines full-spectrum lamps, which are often touted by manufacturers as offering a variety of benefits, including better visibility, improved color rendering, better health, and greater productivity. The report is available free to the public.

Light sources promoted as full spectrum can cost ten times more than nearly identical products that do not bear the full-spectrum claim. Lighting Answers: Full Spectrum Light Sources addresses questions about these products: What are they? How valid are the claimed benefits? Are they worth the extra cost?

Various manufacturers have different ideas about what a full-spectrum light source is and why it yields the claimed benefits. Some say that invisible-to-the-eye UV (ultraviolet) radiation is a necessary ingredient in full-spectrum light. Recently however, several lighting products have emerged that reduce radiation in a small part of the visible spectrum in an effort to improve visibility—and these products are also called full-spectrum. This Lighting Answers report proposes a convenient definition for full-spectrum light sources that can quantify the extent to which a given light source deviates from a full-spectrum light source.

LRC Director Mark Rea, Ph.D., who led the team of researchers examining full-spectrum lighting, says most full-spectrum light sources are marketed at a premium price over other light sources, but generally produce fewer lumens per watt. If manufacturers’ claims are valid, says Dr. Rea, the benefits claimed for full-spectrum light sources would seem to be worth the additional expense and the loss in efficacy. “The problem is,” Rea explains, “with each manufacturer making up its own definition of full-spectrum lighting, consumers have no way to know exactly what they are getting, let alone what benefits to actually expect.”

The report also explores consumer perceptions about full-spectrum light sources. Consumers searching for healthy lighting solutions are often told by manufacturers and retailers that full-spectrum lighting products simulate natural sunlight and improve color perception, visual clarity, mood, productivity, mental awareness, student performance, retail sales, and plant growth. They also, according to some claims, enhance the results of light therapy in treating seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and sleep disorders, promote vitamin D synthesis in the body, and even reduce incidence of dental decay.

“Full-spectrum lighting has been a topic of conversation in the technical community for many years,” said Dr. Rea, “but there have been very few discussions about the strengths and weaknesses of light sources claiming to be full spectrum.” Because there has never been a formal definition of full-spectrum lighting, Rea says it has been difficult to quantitatively compare light source characteristics. “This publication takes a significant step away from non-technical marketing and toward educating the specification community about full-spectrum lighting and its properties.”

About NLPIP and Lighting Answers

The Lighting Answers series of publications answers specific questions about lighting products relevant to lighting decision makers and end users. NLPIP (the National Lighting Product Information Program) publishes reports designed to aid facility managers, utilities, lighting designers, engineers and electrical contractors in choosing the right products for the right applications. Currently, all NLPIP reports in Adobe Acrobat PDF format are available free to the public at www.lrc.rpi.edu/programs/NLPIP/publications.asp.


About the Lighting Research Center
The Lighting Research Center (LRC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is the world's leading center for lighting research and education. Established in 1988 by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), the LRC has been pioneering research in solid-state lighting, light and health, transportation lighting and safety, and energy efficiency for nearly 30 years. LRC lighting scientists with multidisciplinary expertise in research, technology, design, and human factors, collaborate with a global network of leading manufacturers and government agencies, developing innovative lighting solutions for projects that range from the Boeing 787 Dreamliner to U.S. Navy submarines to hospital neonatal intensive-care units. LRC researchers conduct independent, third-party testing of lighting products in the LRC's state of the art photometric laboratories, the only university lighting laboratories accredited by the National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program (NVLAP Lab Code: 200480-0). In 1990, the LRC became the first university research center to offer graduate degrees in lighting and today, offers a M.S. in lighting and a Ph.D. to educate future leaders in lighting. With 35 full-time faculty and staff, 15 graduate students, and a 30,000 sq. ft. laboratory space, the LRC is the largest university-based lighting research and education organization in the world.

About Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, founded in 1824, is America’s first technological research university. The university offers bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in engineering; the sciences; information technology and web sciences; architecture; management; and the arts, humanities, and social sciences. Rensselaer faculty advance research in a wide range of fields, with an emphasis on biotechnology, nanotechnology, computational science and engineering, data science, and the media arts and technology. The Institute has an established record of success in the transfer of technology from the laboratory to the marketplace, fulfilling its founding mission of applying science “to the common purposes of life.”