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

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Next steps for LED industry: Improving systems and identifying niche applications
Photo: LRC's Dr. Narendran speaks at LED Expo 2004.
Dr. Narendran addresses attendees at LED Expo 2004 in Seoul, South Korea.

Even if light-emitting diodes can demonstrate long life, poor construction and misguided application of LED systems can lead to short operating life, consumer dissatisfaction and dismissal of the technology. That was the message presented by N. Narendran, Ph.D., director of research at the Lighting Research Center, and Jean Paul Freyssinier, LRC lighting design specialist, at LED Expo 2004, a four-day international conference dedicated to LEDs. Dr. Narendran and Freyssinier traveled in June to the second annual conference in Seoul, South Korea, to deliver keynote lectures on the progress of LED technology, systems and applications.

“Properly designed, built and installed LED systems can help consumers avoid expensive replacement and advance market acceptance of the technology,” Narendran noted during his presentation, “Creating Reliable LED Systems.” Narendran’s lecture presented issues related to LED system packaging, such as heat management, and how these issues affect the performance of LED products over time. “The LED industry has significantly improved the technology to make it useful for illumination applications, but now the industry needs to look at system life and methods of life prediction. These factors ultimately will impact consumer confidence and acceptance of the technology,” he says.

Lighting fixture manufacturers often have difficulty estimating an LED system’s life, says Narendran. Factors such as LED type, operation and configuration, he says, influence and vary the system’s performance. LRC researchers are working to develop methods that can help manufacturers present accurate life predictions for their products. Additionally, the LRC’s Alliance for Solid-State Illumination Systems and Technologies (ASSIST) program is partnering with lighting manufacturers and other large-scale purchasers of LED systems to create a set of recommendations for LED life and other relevant issues. Standards, Narendran says, are necessary to ensure appropriate, reliable system designs and to allow for product performance comparisons.

Reliable systems, however, are only the first step toward broad market acceptance of LEDs. Finding their place in the lighting world will be critical, says Freyssinier, who discussed the lighting design process and how LEDs can benefit certain types of architectural applications. Freyssinier says it is important to carefully select applications that show off the LED’s characteristics and benefits. “The recipe for successful applications with LEDs is the same as that for incandescent, fluorescent or HID,” he says. “Take advantage of the unique attributes of the technology to add value to the lighting solution.” Many opportunities exist for LEDs, says Freyssinier, including outdoor signage, retail display cabinets and windows, museum lighting, and specialty applications, such as health care.

Nevertheless, the technology has a number of hurdles to overcome to reach wide acceptance by lighting designers and specifiers. The major barriers to the use of LEDs in architectural lighting, says Freyssinier, are the lack of ready-to-use LED systems, unknown reliability and performance, and misguided expectations for LED products. “Unavoidably, we all have certain expectations attached to different lighting technologies. Promoting one technology to directly replace another is a bad strategy if their performances do not match,” he says.

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.

2004 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY 12180 USA.

Rennselear Polytechnic Institute