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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

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 light and human health, transportation lighting and safety, solid-state lighting, energy efficiency, and plant health. 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. Learn more at

About Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Founded in 1824, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is America's first technological research university. Rensselaer encompasses five schools, 32 research centers, more than 145 academic programs, and a dynamic community made up of more than 7,900 students and more than 100,000 living alumni. Rensselaer faculty and alumni include more than 145 National Academy members, six members of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, six National Medal of Technology winners, five National Medal of Science winners, and a Nobel Prize winner in Physics. With nearly 200 years of experience advancing scientific and technological knowledge, Rensselaer remains focused on addressing global challenges with a spirit of ingenuity and collaboration.