General Lighting

A Brighter Tomorrow: Microalgae in your Home

Since the days of the first cave-floor fires, we humans have been trying to improve the functionality of lighting our homes. Electricity has been our answer for over a hundred years now, and of course we keep improving on that idea with smaller, cooler, and more efficient lamps. We’re even exploring alternative energy, and today’s LEDs are light-years beyond those first campfires … but maybe we’re ready to try something a little less electric.

Pierre Calleja is a French biochemist and something of an algae fanatic who has been working with aquaculture technology for decades. He has developed a style of lamp that uses live algae cultures to generate light. The microalgae is naturally bioluminescent, and softly glows after being exposed to an outside light source like sunlight. The gentle glow of Calleja’s green lamps is soothingly soft, but surprisingly strong—a true green energy. Even better, that light isn’t all there is to the technology.

The oceans’ algae is the world’s greatest source of CO2 filtration, even more so than the great forests. Algae “breathes” carbon dioxide and releases clean oxygen—the opposite of what humans and other mammals do. In a TED talk, Calleja spoke of algae as part of the Earth’s lung system, along with forests. Algae is certainly the stronger lung in this analogy, as a single tank of algae can filter as much CO2 each year as a tree does in its entire life.

microalgae lamps
Photo by Tom Little Photography LLC

This isn’t just science. Jacob Douenias and Ethan Frier are designers who have created an art installation at The Mattress Factory, a division of The Museum of Contemporary Art, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Their lamps use Spirulina algae in futuristic glass globes, harnessing the same strain of green goo that is found in green superfood drinks at health food stores and juice bars. The installation teaches observers to look at lighting in different ways, and advocates living with Spirulina in a symbiotic relationship, where our waste CO2 and surplus light feed the algae, and the algae colonies in return provide light and decor. Douenias and Frier are also proponents of considering the high-protein algae a home-grown food source, but only after it has been filtered and dried.

There are logistical struggles in outfitting a house with algae tanks for food and light, but Calleja has already installed his algae lamps in parks in Paris, and scientists are working everyday to improve the technology. The future is definitely looking green!


General Lighting

Scientists make Big Developments with Tiny Graphene Bulb

A tiny new lamp made of graphene has proven to be not only the world’s thinnest light bulb, but also the worlds smallest too. In fact, the tiny graphene lamp—one atomic layer thick—is so small that it can be integrated with a computer chip. This new graphene lamp was developed by James Hone’s group of researchers at Columbia University, and led by a postdoctoral research scientist, Young Duck Kim.

“We’ve created what is essentially the world’s thinnest light bulb,…This new type of ‘broadband’ light emitter can be integrated into chips and will pave the way towards the realization of atomically thin, flexible, and transparent displays, and graphene-based on-chip optical communications.”

—Hone, James, Wang Fon-Jen Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Columbia University

An Amazing New Source of Illumination

Graphene is a form of Carbon. Some of its properties are: it is thin, it has poor heat conduction, and it is crystalline. When combined, these properties contributed to the successful design of the new graphene lamp that could be a game changer. Not only has this team of scientists finally created a lamp that can be integrated safely with computer chips, but in fact they have created something that has innumerable applications for the field of technology and innovative home and business lighting too.

White Light, Little Heat

The graphene that researchers used reached 2,500 degrees Celsius, which is hot enough to cause the strips to glow brightly enough to illuminate the surrounding area of the chip. This type of heat would generally hold the potential to damage surrounding computer chips in the same way as a filament bulb does, but it does not. Why? Because once it is hot, Graphene is a poor conductor of heat so the heat it produces stays within the filament and the surrounding computer chips remain intact and undamaged.

The Future of Light Lies in Integration

It seems that the future of the graphene lamp lies in its integration in the home and in other fields. Integrating the graphene bulb in the home and buildings would mean an actual physical integration of the lighting sources  into the walls and ceilings of a home or office, rather than being separate fixtures. In terms of technological applications, graphene light will enable computer chips to process information more quickly and with less energy consumption. One of the more exciting and futuristic prospects for graphene light is that it could be used to create “flexible and transparent smartphones and tablets” so those computers, phones, and other tech toys you so covet in your favorite sci-fi romp could be in a store near you faster than the speed of light.

General Lighting LED

New Reports Show LED Sales are Gaining on CFLs

Lighting trends have gone through a major transformation over the last decade or so. For many years, the design of the lamps remained about the same, with only a few minor adjustments over time but nothing new in terms of lighting capability, design, or energy efficiency. LEDs reached the market with the intention of giving traditional lamps competition in both the business and home markets—for example, the compact fluorescent lamps (CFL) that are currently dominating the market. Where those LED lamps fell short was the increased price point.

While the quality of light of the LED lamps was comparable, the cost was not. In the long-run, LED lamps can provide significant savings due to the energy efficient design, however those looking at the short-term costs were initially deterred from transitioning to the LED lamps. Now, with LED lamps and luminaires becoming more affordable, it looks as though the popularity of LED lamps are growing fast as a means for lighting a home, a parking lot, and just about everything else in between.

A recent annual benchmark survey commissioned by Osram Sylvania measures the public attitudes and awareness of energy efficient trends in the lighting market. This survey showed that 53% of the 1,000 people polled use CFLs in their home or business. However, 41% of the people surveyed are now using LED lamps. This trend shows that LED lamps could push the more traditional CFLs off the market in the same way incandescent lamps were pushed out by CFLs in 2014. The CFLs are not gone yet though, as 37% of those asked said they would buy the same CFL lamps again.

The loyalty of LED users is growing as well, with 35% stating that they would continue to use those lamps. The survey further uncovered that those who have switched to LED lamps are less likely to switch back as people start to weigh not only their long-term out-of-pocket costs but the life-span and energy efficiency aspects as well.

The main popularity behind the LED lights is the quality of the light produced and the fact that LED lights are brighter and do not generate the same amount of heat. The cost of LEDs vs. CFLs still tilts in the CFL’s favor. There are some general purpose LED light bulbs that sell for around nine dollars each and even less at some major discount retailers. Still, those single pack LED lamps do costs more than the three pack of CFLs priced at about ten dollars, however the markets are showing that the LED bulbs are starting to go down in price and push the lighting trends towards LEDs.

General Lighting

EPA Publishes Final Energy Star Specifications

Just a month after its final draft, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has published its Version 2.0 of the Energy Star Luminaires that raises the energy performance level of lighting products. Public comments regarding any changes raised only a small number of new issues that have been addressed with the agency’s most recent comments. The guidelines in Version 2.0 (V2.0) of the document will become operational on June 1, 2016. Lighting products previously carrying the Energy Star V1.0 and V1.2 certifications are allowed to carry those labels until that date.

Manufacturers of lighting products can begin moving forward to comply with the new specifications of compliance immediately. Certification bodies are permitted to begin testing of luminaires for V2.0 conformity directly after a manufacturer’s request. Certification bodies will no longer validate products to the V1.2 standards as of December 1, 2015. The EPA cited the longer production and testing times due to the complexity of LED products as the reason behind the one-year time period designated for products to become compliant with the V2.0 specifications.

One change in the V1.2 specifications permits GU24 lighting products to operate in Energy Star products that are specifically designed to use GU24 products. The screw-based designs must clearly indicate the manufacturers and lamps that they are compatible with as the information is needed for replacement bulbs. Another change is that the retrofit kits do not have to meet the requirements for driver/ballast replacement because their lights can already be removed.

The EPA clarified that the new specifications do not include information on the replacement of fluorescent light  LED tubes and that the rest of changes in this draft were to update references and fix grammatical errors.

The V2.0 specifications are expected to result in noticeable reductions of energy use via higher efficacy standards. They’re also intended to motivate users to purchase more solid state lighting products like LED lighting for reasons of cost and efficiency. In some cases, efficacy standards have been lowered, the rationale being that lowered efficacy standards boosts broader adoption and use of LED lighting.

Sports LED

LED Lighting for Volleyball Courts Makes Regulatory Compliance Easier

If you run outdoor volleyball facilities for a town, club or professional association, you know how much of a headache compliance with light-trespass and light-pollution regulations has become. Even light systems that are compliant at installation degrade in both light quality and fixture orientation, and bam—you have an unhappy neighbor or a regulatory official pounding on your door.

LED volleyball court lighting systems are now available to help you save money with greatly reduced energy costs, reduced maintenance needs, and greatly improved lighting for players. Many LED fixtures available for sports lighting now are able to reduce the energy use by 50-60% as compared to traditional HID systems. Improvements in LED technology has increased the rated life from 50,000 hours to an astounding 100,000 hours; almost 10 times the life of pulse start-metal halide lights. This extension in lamp life allows for your sports court lights to fit regulations longer.

Beyond  reduced energy use and increased life, LED lighting is carefully shaped, focused and tuned using custom optic designs to direct all the light to the ground, right where you want it, without glare to observers outside the court area and without spillage upwards to contribute to light pollution and “dark sky” impingement. This ability to direct light in specific directions helps prevent non-compliance due to a slight movement in a mounting arm. In addition, custom light optics prevents shadows on the courts as well as fixtures or lights obstructing players views.

Lower energy and maintenance costs, better lighting for court and player needs and a reduction in “light law” violations… what’s not to like?

General Lighting LED

LED Efficiency Brings Battery Power Home

For many people the mere mention of battery-powered lighting conjures memories of fumbling around the kitchen junk drawer in the dark, trying to find the magic combination of size and charge to power their flashlight or other portable device. Convenience and reliability are rarely the first things we associate with batteries. However, due to the constant improvement in energy efficiency, LED lighting is sure to become the product to turn to when sourcing portable lighting. It may be too soon for homeowners to convert all of their household lighting but when it comes to both indoor and outdoor products, LED lighting can become more than just a provider for niche accessories.

In and around the residential household, LED flashlights are already the market leader in portable lighting. However, for common outdoor products such as post-top lanterns or suspended outdoor lights, solar-charged batteries have previously been the most popular. Yet, these products have generally received criticism as solar-charged batteries are often unreliable and the battery can easily fail during the night.

Today, many leading lighting companies are reverting back to primary battery and rechargeable battery products. Though the consumer has the inconvenience of physically replacing the batteries themselves, the increase in reliability and lifespan of the battery seem to out-weigh this issue.

Latest Products

To look at some of the latest LED lighting products, we will use two examples; firstly, an LED luminaire/lantern from lighting supplier, Jasco. This luminaire can be used as a fixed nightlight or used as an alternative to a camping lantern, traditionally powered by gas. The battery version provides 300 lm whilst the plug-in version boasts 400 lm creating enough light to far surpass the light source given by a standard night light. It requires six AA-cell batteries to run it and the battery life is an impressive eight months. Low usage areas would see this battery life increase.

Secondly, we shall look at outdoor spotlights from lighting brand; Mr. Beams. This company has a variety of spotlights which all run on D-cell batteries. Mr. Beams states that with their most popular and best-selling product, the MB360, they can provide their customer with 40 hours of constant light on one set of batteries (with typical operation they believe this to be about 1 year). The light emitted is 140 lm with a coverage area of over 400 sq. feet.

It is worth mentioning smaller products that use re-chargeable batteries and are designed for everyday use of several hours per day. The Hue Glow (mood lighting product) is a good example of this and is a product which can be used indefinitely while plugged in or a few hours on a full charge.

The Future

There are currently more battery-powered lighting products on the market than ever before. The quality of many of these products are improving on a quality and are being used as an easy alternative to installing AC powered lights. Major retailers such as Costco and Fulcrum are selling under-cabinet battery powered LED light bars, porch lights, and pathway lights and are illustrating that LED light products are innovative and not inhibited by wiring or cords.