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Troy, N.Y. -  7/24/2012

LRC's Bullough Authors National Academies Report on LED Airfield Lighting


airport runway lightsLight-emitting diode (LED) technology holds significant promise for airfield lighting in the U.S, mainly in terms of the potential for longer operating lives and increased efficacy of LEDs compared to incandescent lamps, the most common light source on airport runways and taxiways today. Throughout the past decade, the Lighting Research Center (LRC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has assisted the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to understand and maximize the benefits of LED lighting technologies.

Drawing on the experience of airport operators, on published accounts of LED airfield installations, and on the LRC’s knowledge of LED lighting technologies and aviation applications, John Bullough, senior research scientist and adjunct assistant professor at the LRC, authored a newly published report written to assist airports as they decide if and when to install LED runway and taxiway lights. The report was published by the Transportation Research Board (TRB) of the National Academies through the Airport Cooperative Research Program (ACRP), which funded the study. A panel of experts from aviation, government, industry, and academia appointed by the National Academies oversaw the project.

Bullough’s report summarizes the responses of airports across the country to a survey questionnaire regarding their experiences with LED airfield lighting, supplemented by published reports that until now have been scattered in many locations. “LED runway and taxiway lighting systems can save airports time and money,” said Bullough. “FAA requirements for LED lighting help ensure that these systems work as promised, and the technology regularly improves to keep up with those requirements.”

Bullough found that the largest area for savings by airports was in terms of reduced maintenance requirements, followed by lower energy use. “LED airfield lighting uses much less energy than incandescent, but airfield electrical systems are optimized for incandescent lamps, not LEDs. Even more energy can be saved if electrical systems are designed with the reduced loads of LEDs in mind,” he said. The FAA is now investigating new electrical infrastructures for airfield lighting that will help maximize energy savings and reliability.

The report also contains an overview of LED light source technology, the relevant FAA guidance documents for airfield lighting, and pointers to resources on airport funding and economic cost analysis tools. Bullough’s report, Issues with Use of LED Airfield Lighting: ACRP Synthesis 35, is available for download from the TRB website at:

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 conducts research in solid-state lighting, light and health, transportation lighting and safety, energy efficiency, and plant pathology. 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. 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."