Advancing the effective use of light for society and the environment.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Electronic Walls and Ceilings
Occupants can change the location of light fixtures on a whim
By Mary Cimo
Modular LED panels

The Alliance for Solid-State Illumination Systems and Technologies (ASSIST), an LED industry group organized by the LRC, unveiled a novel concept for lighting homes and offices. The design integrates light-emitting diode (LED) technology with building materials and systems to create electronic walls and ceilings. The design includes interchangeable, modular panels with integrated LED lighting fixtures that “snap” in and out of an electrical grid. Occupants can change the location of light fixtures or introduce new fixtures on a whim to satisfy their needs or their mood.

“The new concept represents a paradigm shift in the way people think about lighting and the way we build and design interiors,” said Nadarajah Narendran, Ph.D., LRC director of research and head of the LRC’s Solid-State Lighting Program.

The design team, led by Dr. Narendran and Russ Leslie, LRC associate director and architect, built a full-scale vignette of an executive office at the LRC to showcase the group’s ideas for adaptable lighting. Rearranging the LED panels on the walls and ceiling in the room is easier than moving furniture, according to the researchers. There is no need to drill holes, patch drywall, call an electrician, or lay out the room according to where the electric sockets are installed. Once in place, the LED panels are controlled by a touch-screen LCD panel mounted on the wall.

Modular LED panels

According to Narendran, over the past 100 years, traditional lighting has acted as an add-on to spaces. LEDs, however, offer new ways to light an area. This rapidly evolving technology can be embedded into any type of architecture due to its small size, ruggedness, and long life.

“The transformation from gas lighting to electric lighting called for a quantum leap in infrastructure change, but people embraced the new system because the technology allowed for better lighting, flexibility, and a host of additional technological advances,” said Leslie. “Our proposed concept is an equivalent leap in technology and infrastructure change, and one that promotes a ‘tunable’ lighting environment for improved vision, mood, productivity, health, and aesthetics.”

Comments from project sponsors

Govi Rao, vice president and general manager, Solid-State Lighting, NA, Philips Lighting: “This is a great example of collaborative industry effort, enabling us to take the first step in this long journey of infrastructure transformation.”

Makarand "Chips" Chipalkatti, Ph.D., innovation management, OSRAM SYLVANIA: “In many ways, this recent design concept with LEDs is profound, as light can now become part of the architecture. In the short term, it may be possible to build replacement LED lamps to fill existing sockets and luminaires, but in the long term the very nature of construction and buildings will go through a change, the way it did during the transition from gas to electric lamps. To truly realize the full potential offered by LEDs in lighting and architecture, we must invest our thinking and resources in the area of new infrastructure and standards.”

Chris Bohler, Ph.D., director, technology systems, GELcore: “The flexibility provided by LEDs, as demonstrated by this project, is second to none in the lighting industry.”

Dan Doxsee, Ph.D., sales manager, lighting, Nichia America Corp.: “The all solid-state lighting demo room shows what is possible when lighting designers free themselves from the paradigm of Edison sockets and use the design freedom that LED technology allows for.”


The Alliance for Solid-State Illumination Systems and Technologies (ASSIST) is a program developed by the Lighting Research Center to advance the effective use of energy-efficient solid-state lighting technologies. ASSIST is a collaboration between researchers, manufacturers, utilities, and government organizations. Its goal is to identify and reduce major technical hurdles and help LED technology gain widespread use in lighting applications that can significantly benefit from this rapidly advancing light source technology. On behalf of ASSIST, the LRC conducts research, demonstration and evaluation, and educational activities. Beyond technical research, ASSIST has been active in fostering discussions between traditional luminaire manufacturers and LED manufacturers.

ASSIST sponsors include Boeing, GELcore, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, Nichia America Corporation, OSRAM SYLVANIA, Philips Lighting, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

About the LRC Solid-State Lighting Program

Lighting applications that use light-emitting diodes are referred to as solid-state lighting (SSL). The LRC's Solid-State Lighting Program conducts research and educational programs to enhance this technology and help it gain acceptance for general illumination purposes. The LRC's multidisciplinary team researches how lighting systems interact; how people perceive and react to lighting conditions; and how to use LEDs to replace less efficient lighting. To learn more about the LED and SSL research taking place at the LRC, visit the LRC SSL Web site at

About the LRC

The Lighting Research Center (LRC) is part of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and is the leading university-based research center devoted to lighting. Founded in 1988, the Lighting Research Center has built an international reputation as a trusted and reliable source for objective information about lighting technologies, applications, and products. Its mission is to advance the effective use of light and create a positive legacy of change for society and the environment.

Rennselear Polytechnic Institute