Light-Source Symposium Update

I recently attended the 13th International Light-Source Symposium (LS13), held in Troy, NY in late June.  This is THE scientific conference on lighting sources (lamps) and is held every other year. This year, it was hosted by Rensselaer Polytechnical Institute (RPI) Lighting Research Center (LRC), and held at the RPI campus.  In recent years, this conference has focused heavily on LED and OLED — so-called “SSL” — sources with only a minimal amount of discussion centered on fluorescent, HID, halogen, and other light sources.
The chief technology officers of several important lighting companies (Osram, Philips, GE, Cree, Panasonic, and Toshiba) all spoke on the first day, and, surprisingly, I observed none of the hyperbole or excessive optimism about LED and SSL we’ve experienced in recent years. 

In an ensuing panel discussion, one question from the audience was, “Can you list and prioritize the technical challenges with SSL, and can you tell us what the key issue to solve is?”

Without hesitation or disagreement, they listed cost, thermal management, reliability, color quality, electronics, and form factor.  Two of the CTOs agreed that the top two are extremely serious, and necessary to solve before SSL can make significant inroads into the residential lighting markets.  They all agreed that SSL is only relevant at the present for decorative and specialty lighting, especially backlighting. They also agreed that they feel major improvements may come about (ranging in opinion of 1 to 10 years.)

The Vu1 ESL light bulb was presented in a “Landmark Lecture,” and as a result, became the talk of the conference. The LRC hosts provided a fixture with a triac dimmer switch, and it was quite clear that the lamp delivers on the claims: it looks just like what it replaces, it works smoothly with the dimmer switch without flickering, and it turns on and off instantly.

From the conclusion of the Vu1 lecture, until the end of the five-day conference, there were no naysayers.  Essentially everybody wanted to see the bulb up close, and everyone asked for samples of the bulb as well. I saw at least 200 mobile-phone cameras pop out and snap pictures of the lamp – easily, the most-photographed item at LS13.  I hope if someone else who was there took a picture, they’ll post it for everyone.  It was clearly understood that the Vu1 R-30 (and the coming other configurations) provide a product which is lacking right now in both CFL and LED platforms.  This is the first energy-efficient, sustainable technology to come along which looks good and is reasonably priced.
With regard to other conference highlights, the consensus is that OLED technology is far too dim, unreliable and too expensive for products at this time; but some years in the future, there should be a crossover in “cost per lumen” which could help them emerge as residential products.

The LED “Blue Light Hazard” is no longer viewed as unsubstantiated fodder for emotional hysteria: all of the LED community is now acceding to the existence of problems with circadian rhythms, melatonin and other hormone production, macular degeneration, disrupted sleep cycles, and other issues, as a result of exposure to LEDs – the potential to be a major worldwide issue.

Finally, there were presentations which demonstrated that UV LEDs, which can be used as pumps for LED light sources, are making improvements; but they are still years away from being on the market.  For residential use, the VU1 ESL lamp is the only thing anybody is offering which looks good and is affordable.

Dr. Charles Hunt
Vu1 Corporation

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