A Bright Redesign for LED Lights

Illumitex’s new optical design makes LEDs brighter and more energy efficient. by Erika Jonietz

Illumitex, an LED-manufacturing company based in Austin, TX, launched its first product line earlier this month. The startup’s first LEDs are designed for general-purpose lighting and emit a uniform, narrow beam of white light that is almost two times brighter than any white LED on the market. The founders, all of whom have backgrounds in optics rather than solid-state lighting, achieved this by redesigning the package around the semiconductor chip that actually converts electricity into light.

Traditionally, LED manufacturers have enclosed the chips inside a dome in order to control the light output. Illumitex’s LEDs ship in a flat, square package that eliminates the cost and energy efficiency issues that come from using secondary optical lenses and reflectors. Cofounder and chief scientist Dung Tien Duong, who is the company’s primary inventor, won’t say much about how the unique package allows Illumitex engineers to extract more light from the LED dies, but he does say it takes “intuitive” advantage of physics principles. “If the chip is square, the light beam should be square,” he says. While the company is mum on the exact physics behind its achievements (patents are still pending), it has published data sheets for both its 16-die and 4-die LEDs, including some data verified by third-party testing companies.

Illumitex’s LEDs have a unique flat, square package that allows engineers to extract more light from the semiconductor chips at the heart of the diodes. (c) Illumitex

Illumitex sells its packaged LEDs to companies that make LED-based light bulbs. CEO Matt Thomas says the startup already has several customers that sell products for outdoor lighting (e.g., streetlights) and commercial “high-bay” lighting (typical in warehouses or convention centers), as well as one company working on an LED replacement for the fluorescent tube lights usually found in offices. Only one customer is public at this time, Singapore-based LED Works,  which has designed lighting for several famous casinos and hotels worldwide, as well as for the Singapore Flyer, the world’s largest Ferris wheel. Thomas says LEDWorks is incorporating the Illumitex LEDs into “a PAR30 replacement,” referring to the most popular floodlight-style bulbs used in indoor lighting, that could deliver 500 lumens for only 7 watts. A commercially available compact-fluorescent PAR30 bulb typically puts out 750 lumens of light at around 16 watts, while a halogen version might deliver 600 lumens for 50 watts of power.

Thomas says that in addition to their brightness and energy efficiency, Illumitex LEDs offer one advantage completely unique to its package design: the beam angle–that is, the angle at which light emerges from the package–can be tailored from 10° to 90° with limited light loss. This allows manufacturers to design systems that provide consistent, directed lighting without the dark spots or “spillover” typical of most lighting systems. For instance, picture a typical block of street lights: there are alternating bright and dark patches, and perhaps 25 percent or more the light “spills over” into the windows of homes and stores along the street. Although LEDs allow designers to direct the light, conventional domed LEDs still end up wasting a fair amount of energy on spillover. In contrast, Illumitex has created computer models that show its LEDs can be used to design a system that would provide consistent illumination along the sidewalk and street with only minimal spillover.

A 16-die LED illuminated in one of Illumitex’s onsite testing labs. (c) Credit Technology Review

The company has pilot manufacturing facilities and extensive R&D and testing equipment in its south Austin office space. Full-scale manufacturing, however, is done in Asia. Though the actual LEDs in Illumitex’s first chips are “industry standard for white LEDs,” says Thomas, the company is extending its research beyond packaging and into actual LED design in its efforts to continue improving the efficiency of LEDs for general lighting.



Palo Alto, California is giving its residents a holiday gift. They are offering each resident the chance to trade in their incandescent lights for new LED holiday lights for their decorations.  LED lights consume 10-50 times less energy than old holiday lights.  LED lights are also cool to the touch, lowering fire hazards.

KCBS’ Betsy Gebhart reports

The program will run through mid-January.  Let’s hope more cities adopt this environmentally-admirable attitude in the future.

All new buildings built after 2020 in Europe  must rely mostly on renewable energy under the European Union’s new energy standards.

AeroFarms in Ithaca, N.Y., a provider of aeroponic technology, has acquired a first-of-its-kind instrument for testing the application of LED lighting to plants. The company is working in cooperation with Cornell University’s Dept. of Horticulture and the Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. The instrument has an array of LED lights that can emit the exact spectra of light necessary to grow plants while excluding all other spectral bands.
AeroFarms has an aeroponic controlled environment production system for leafy greens that produces crops year-round using artificial light. The new testing equipment will be able to control spectral bands, intensity and exposure duration to determine impact and yield and quality of leafy green vegetables grown by AeroFarms.

Dreamgirls at the Paramount Theatre sparkle with LED Light Panels.

Update: CREE continues to advance – adding over 3% today to an 52 week high.  Could this be takeover speculation?

As of This week, stock in U.S. LED manufacturer Cree rose 10% in one day.when investment bank UBS boosted its rating on the maker of chips used in LED lighting. UBS pointed out that LED lighting is a fast-growing industry. Cree is constantly innovating and producing state of the art LED Lighting.  Other LED manufacturers include Philips Lumileds (a subsidiary of Philips), Osram, Epitar and Toyota Gosei.

The LED industry is growing and consolidating simultaneously. The LED Industry is entering a fast growth stage in 2010 even with the downturn of the economy.Last year, the lighting market was estimated to be $102 billion annually, going up to $130 billion by next year.  Toshiba announced that it is abandoning incandescent lightbulbs and manufacturing only LEDs. h

Philips has been aggressively acquiring smaller LED companies. In recent years, Philips acquired Genlyte for $2.7 Billion, TIR Systems for $75 million and Color Kinetics for $791 million to get a competitive advantage.  Cree acqured COTCO to take advantage of COTC’s better strategic position in China.

Cree is frequently rumored to be a takeover candidate of Philips or GE, which may account for some of the growth of its stock price from 13 to 76 in the last year or so.

Last month, PowerSecure International, another North Carolina company, paid over $4 million to buy a major stake in a smaller LED lighting company called Innovative Electronic Solutions Lighting, and got the option to buy the rest of the company for $10 million.

PowerSecure saw their revenue grow 700% last year despite the great global recession.

PowerSecure also bought the part of EfficientLights, another LED light manufacturer that it already owned a majority stake in.

LEDs are increasingly seen as the future of electric lighting. Incandescent and fluorescent bulbs will become obsolete because LED lights are vastly superior – long-lasting, up to 90% less energy use, environmentally friendly.

According to industry estimates, LEDs represent a potential $30 billion to $50 billion in annual sales.  Read more.

“A straightforward guide to understanding, buying, installing and benefiting from energy saving LED home lighting. ht: kulekat

Domestic LED lighting is still seen as something of a novelty and many people don’t really understand what’s involved, where to use energy saving LED lighting, how to use domestic LED lights or what the issues are regarding installing low energy light bulbs.

For a start there is the cost, which puts many people off straight away because what they almost certainly don’t yet understand about low energy lighting is that when comparing an ultra low energy LED light bulb with a normal incandescent bulb or even an “energy saving” CFL light bulb they are not comparing like with like.

It’s hard to see how a domestic LED replacement light that costs many times more than the ordinary light bulbs you’ve always bought before could possibly save you money. But believe it – it will save a fortune and sooner than you might think.

Part of the reason is not only the energy saving that home LED lighting brings, but that word “replacement” – replacing conventional, halogen and so-called low-energy CFL bulbs with genuinely ultra low energy domestic LED lamps means quite simply you don’t have to replace light bulbs all the time because the lifespan of most LED lamps on sale today is a staggering 50,000 (or more) times that of a regular incandescent light bulb.

The fact is that even at today’s fuel prices you will save (yes, that is “will save” not “may save”) substantial sums of money by replacing existing domestic lighting systems with low energy LED home lighting alternatives. The following table gives a clue as to how much saving is possible from LED compared to CFL and incandescent lighting.

Type Wattage Total Lumens Lifespan Hours Annual Energy Cost Cost Over 5 Years
Incandescent 60W 840 1,000 8.00 1200.00
CFL 11W 770 8,000 1.45 217.50
LED 5W 625 50,000 0.40 60.00

Energy costs are based on the standard approximation of 10p per kWh, with average usage of 4 hours per day for a modest family home with 30 light bulbs.

Regardless of how closely the actual costs match your own circumstances, you can clearly see that LED light bulbs are nearly 4 times cheaper to run than CFLs and a massive 20 times cheaper than incandescent light bulbs.

That’s without factoring in the increased lifespan which means that even when comparing purchase prices, any LED that is less than 50 times more expensive than its incandescent counterpart actually works out cheaper in terms of purchase costs too.

As the future brings ever rising energy and thus electricity prices, due to the remorseless effects of supply and demand, the arguments for switching to energy saving domestic LED lighting become ever more compelling.

Not only are domestic LED lights becoming rapidly ever more powerful and versatile, they are also dropping massively in price. That’s for a simple reason, namely that domestic LED is the future of lighting. The major corporations in the lighting industry are all betting their businesses on LED home lighting and moving away from both regular incandescent and CFL “low energy” or “energy saving” light bulbs.

The reason is very simple: economics and survival in a new age of global warming and energy crises – the lighting industry is being forced to adopt effective energy saving lighting solutions, which means that you, me and everyone else is also about to be forced to adopt energy saving lighting – namely domestic LED lighting.

Not only that, but many governments are also actively engaged in phasing out conventional light bulbs, some as soon as only a couple of years hence. The energy (and hence real money) costs of both manufacturing and, quite literally, burning traditional light bulbs is becoming prohibitive to all concerned.

This is even before you factor in the environmental cost in terms of waste heat, CO2 output and disposal. The lifespan of incandescent bulbs is less than 2% that of LED lamps and in the case of CFLs (Compact Fluorescent Lamps), which still last only about 10% as long, there is the added problem that they contain highly toxic mercury vapour and must be disposed of in a controlled manner. Between legislative push and technological pull, the conclusion is inescapable: domestic LED lighting is coming to a home near you, real soon.

How And Where To Use Energy Saving Domestic LED Lighting

Then there is the question of where and how to use LED lighting in and around the home. Again, lack of familiarity with LED technology means that many people have only encountered domestic LED lighting in limited areas such as novelty lamps, high powered LED torches and solar powered LED garden lighting.

The availability of domestic LED lighting solutions is increasing at a phenomenal rate, but right now it is still fair to say that the best way to use LEDs in your own household is in the applications where LED lights excel.

Unlike a conventional incandescent lamp that scatters (mostly heat and some) light in all directions, an LED emits a very bright, pure light that is highly directional. This makes them absolutely ideal as replacement spot lights, particularly for replacing halogen lightswhich seem to be everywhere in the home these days, wasting heat and money in equal measure.

LED lamps also remain cool to the touch, since they convert nearly all their input electricity into light and don’t waste heat, and are therefore far safer than extremely hot halogen bulbs that can present a serious fire risk in some situations.

Although spot lights are commonly used as down lighters in a domestic setting, they are also perfect as display lighting, but can be difficult to install in some areas due to the very high temperatures associated with conventional incandescent spot lights.

Again, LED spot lights are ideal for illuminating display shelving, installing underneath shelves and kitchen units, and lighting the insides of cabinets and even wardrobes. They can be placed right next to delicate surfaces and other objects without the slightest risk of harm due to heat. This also open up new display lighting techniques since LED spot lights can be placed adjacent to even in among the feature on display.

Another area where you might consider using LED lights is mood lighting. This is an area that home LED lighting really opens up since many of the effects achievable with LED lighting are simply not possible using existing lighting technology. LED lights can emit and mix all manner of rich, vibrant colors and even change color dynamically. These can be directed against wall, floors and ceilings to alter the ambience of a room or can be concentrated as a focal point to draw attention.

In fact, some modern TV’s already incorporate LED mood lighting by back projecting colors according to the mood of the programme being shown, but you don’t need to spend out on an expensive new HDTV to get this effect. You can install LED mood lighting anywhere you like. Imagine being able to subtly alter the color scheme in your bedroom for example according to how you happen to be feeling at the time!

And of course, all these techniques can be readily exported to provide outdoor lighting where low-heat, low-energy LED lights make them safe and easy to install in the garden to provide courtesy lighting, illuminate particular features, or whatever takes your fancy really.

How To Begin Installing Low Energy LED Home Lighting

Installing LED replacement lamps throughout your home should be seen as an investment as well as an opportunity to introduce new, innovative and cost-efficient lighting ideas into your home. The upfront costs can be quite significant (even though the savings are equally as impressive and surprisingly quick to kick in) so it is sensible to tackle the conversion in several phases.

When you review which light bulbs to replace with low energy lighting, initially consider lights that you leave on a lot and/or don’t need to be very bright (night lights spring to mind). Old first generation LED lights are easily up to the job here, providing suitable light levels and able to be left running more or less permanently at almost no cost. They are also quite cheap since by modern domestic LED standards they are old technology.

Other obvious domestic applications to consider for initial replacement are those halogen spot lights, since most people have them installed in light clusters (say 10 or more down lighters in a kitchen or 4 or 5 spot lights on a rack in a bathroom). Kitchen lighting tends to be left on a lot and you will obviously get the best savings from those lights you normally use the most. The great thing about installing LED kitchen lighting using retrofit replacements for halogen lamps (MR16, GU10 and ES formats are all available) is that you get low power consumption and low heat output, so no more issues with being fire-rated. There are now hi power GU10 LED energy saving bulbs equal in power to GU10 50w halogen output but running at 9 watts that deliver the holy grail of full spectrum light, low power and long life.

If you already have display lighting, this again is a great area to tackle for all those reasons mentioned above. If you don’t as yet use display lighting then you should consider the opportunities that LED strip lights and spots provide. If you have any open or glazed display cabinets, shelves, recesses or features/ornaments then you can easily turn these effectively into light sources that add interest to a space by bouncing LED lights off reflective surfaces or using LED color wash effects.

Feature lighting – that is, a light source that is itself intended to be the focus of attention – can also be wonderfully enhanced with domestic LED lighting technology. Colored or color changing LEDs are an obvious example with the beautiful rich depth of colors available. But also, certain materials such as polished metal and cut glass are a match made in heaven for the bright, sparkling light that is unique to tiny, low heat, low energy domestic LED lighting clusters.

The next targets to pick on are any other areas around the house that use or would benefit from very bright directional light. Desk lamps and other reading lights are clear candidates since that is the whole point of a reading light – clean, bright light aimed where you actually want it.

Also worthy of consideration are any domestic light fittings that “throw” light – up lighters for example – where you could achieve a similar effect by bouncing light from an LED light source so that it is diffused over a wall or ceiling.

Last to consider are fittings that use the common or garden lampshade. These are actually designed to scatter light in all directions and although this effect can be achieved by replacement LED light bulbs, current technology does not yet provide as effective a substitute as for those applications that require bright directional light. This is set to change in the very near future though, so watch this space!

But in the mean time, you could consider halogen based replacements for ordinary light bulbs as an effective interim solution since these have very similar characteristics to GLS (General Lighting Service) light bulbs in terms of range of fittings and light quality and intensity, but bring the added benefits of lasting at least twice as long while using about one third less energy.

What To Look For When Buying Energy Saving LED Lights For The Home

So, which domestic low energy light bulbs should you buy? There are a number of points to review, the first being aesthetics. It’s all very well saving money with LED home lighting but the operative word here is “home”.

It’s your home and you have to live there, so make sure you like what you buy. Not least, because unlike an ordinary light bulb which is a) cheap and b) won’t last long, a domestic energy saving LED lamp is an investment that you will own for at least a decade or three.

Until you become more familiar with the bewildering variety of domestic LED lights available, the best way to find out what you like is to actually see some in action. Specialist lighting and home furnishings stores frequently have home LED lighting on display as do many larger DIY and department stores.

Don’t be confused either by the low wattage rating for energy saving domestic LED lamps. A 7w incandescent bulb would give scarcely any light at all, but a 7w LED bulb is extremely bright. You should become accustomed to these different rating values so you know what level brightness you want (but of course, if you actually visit a store you can see for yourself anyway). As a rough guide a ratio of 1:10 works well – in other words a 5w LED would be a good match for a 50w incandescent bulb.

The next thing you will be confronted by after power rating is “color”. This is a value such 4700K (where K indicates Kelvins – a temperature scale where 0 degrees is “absolute zero”).

All you need to know about color temperatures is that the lower the value, 2100K for example, the warmer and more yellow the light and conversely the higher the value, such as 5100K the colder and bluer the light will appear.

There is no hard and fast rule as to what color temperature is “best”. It depends on personal taste and what you require the light for – bright, closer to daylight color or a softer more gentle ambience. This color scale example gives an idea.

You get what you pay for. Be wary of buying energy saving LED lightbulbs direct from websites that are not clear about the origins of their products. There are many cheap and frankly nasty products out there (eBay sellers advertising stock shipped from China for example). The simple and safe advice when looking to buy LED lightbulbs direct is stick with top quality brands.

Unless you are simply purchasing more of a type of domestic LED light you have previously bought and were pleased with, always try to see an example of how it performs for your intended application. You don’t have to jump in with both feet – start by replacing just a few lights with LED substitutes and gradually learn how and where to use home LED lighting to best effect in a domestic setting. Very much the same techniques and guidelines apply as for designing regular home lighting, and as ever, the best way of understanding any new technology is by playing with it.

For a more in depth look at buying and installing energy saving LED home lighting check out this simple guide to buying LED home lighting and also this review of how to set about replacing halogen with LED.

An energy saving domestic LED lamp is not like an ordinary light bulb – you are not going to be replacing it after a year. LED Home Lighting – it really is the future, in more ways than you might have imagined.”