August 13, 2012 – Vol.17 No. 22
LED LIGHTING: TIME FOR A CHANGE.
by Bruce Mulliken, Green Energy News
Up until now LED lighting development and commercialization has been mostly focused on creating screw-in or twist-in replacements for incandescent or fluorescent light bulbs. These LED products are meant to be as much like conventional bulbs as possible. The logic is obvious: People already own lamps and light fixtures designed for conventional bulbs. Making LED bulbs to fit will help encourage them to switch, making the transition easier, painless.
Yet there's a problem with this approach. Making a LED to look and act act like a conventional bulb has added to the cost, helping to make them expensive for consumers. Here's why:
LEDs are different animals than conventional bulbs. They're not so much a light bulb, but an electronic device that just happens to emit light. (Which is part of their appeal by the way.) It's obvious when you own one. LED's are clearly part of the electronics world, not just the lighting world. They are high-tech devices, not consumables like incandescent bulbs. They're meant to be kept and used a long time. Economically they should be considered a durable good, not a disposable one. (The two that I own moved 1000 miles with me.)
Though on the outside these LED replacement bulbs have similar form factor as regular bulbs, it’s under the skin that counts.
Looking at them, some bulbs have an array of LED engines that can be seen, others the array of “engines” is hidden by a frosted plastic cover which helps spread the emitted light and give it a pleasing (hopefully) color.
I’ll stop here for a second let the Zhaga Consortium define the term “LED engines” just so you’ll know.
Zhaga, which is trying to standardize LED lighting dimensions, says that an LED light engine is made up of control gear and the LED module itself. For the novice, who has at least looked closely at an LED bulb, the LED module is what appears to be a little dollop of plastic that glows when the switch is turned on. The control gear is the electronics and related bits that makes sure the LED glows. Lower light output LEDs might not need the electronics, but for high brightness LEDs the electronics are a must. LEDs are fussy about the quality and type of electricity they use. The electronics keep electricity from the grid under tight control. With high brightness LED lights, each little dollop of plastic (actually the “diode” in Light Emitting Diode) in an array has its own control gear with its own electronics all in a very small chip.
To make matters worse high brightness LEDs are very sensitive to heat so bulbs with these small light engines, as well as LED light bulbs themselves, have be designed to dissipate heat rapidly adding more cost in materials and manufacturing processes to LED production.
All in all, making LEDs conform to standards, to conventions, old ones at that, adds to the cost. Perhaps, in an effort to bring down costs, it’s time to step out of the box, start thinking about LEDs on their own, not lamps to fit an old mold.
At least one company, Albeo Technologies, is working in that direction with patents awarded and plans for commercialization. I’ll let Albeo’s words explain in a press release.
Albeo Advances LED Fixture Patent Strategy with “Chip-in-Fixture” Innovation
New Chip-in-Fixture patent sets course to lower LED fixture costs below fluorescent lighting, leading the way to making LED the dominant lighting choice
With the recent granting of four new patents, Albeo Technologies advances its strategy of LED fixture innovation. The new patents protect fundamental innovations in LED chip integration, fixture construction and electronic architecture that significantly reduce costs and improve efficiency.
The company’s most recent patent is for a “chip-in-fixture” (CIF) LED lighting platform, titled LED chip-based lighting products and methods of building (US Patent 8,058,659). This innovation covers the integration of unpackaged light-emitting diode chips directly on the inside surface of the external shell of the fixture, to substantially reduce the raw material cost of LED fixtures and dramatically improve performance. The CIF design minimizes thermal resistance by eliminating printed circuit boards, heat sinks, and the actual LED package. With this foundational patent, Albeo Technologies has developed working prototypes for next generation commercial and industrial LED fixtures. The company expects to begin marketing these fixtures in 2013.
“The chip-in-fixture patent is a fundamental change in the state-of-the-art at the fixture level,” said Albeo Technologies Co-Founder and CEO Jeff Bisberg. “By removing many of the materials and layers currently used in LED fixtures, we are able to both reduce costs and improve efficiency. In the very near future, we anticipate this type of fixture design will allow LED fixtures to surpass fluorescent lighting in value, performance and even upfront cost.”
In order to reduce cost, it’s time to rethink LEDs and LED fixtures as their own stand alone light sources, not just as screw-in, twist-in replacements for bulb designs more than a century old.
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