Impressions of LEDs 2011
10 November 2011
by John M. Goodman, Ph.D.
I attended the first day of the LEDs 2011 conference in San Diego on October 25th, 2011. Here are some of my impressions from that day: The sessions took place in a fairly large hotel conference room with around 200 people from more than a dozen countries and from all aspects of the solid state lighting industry from the manufacturers of LEDs to those who create custom installations for special projects, all listening intently to each of the nine speakers they would hear from that day.
These speakers represented government regulators (US DOE), trade group executives (Brazil), marketing firms studying the industry, technical experts covering important topics that designers must understand, and still others who are end users of solid state lighting devices. Many of these speakers pointed out that LEDs represent a fourth type of light source. [Although they didn't define the other three, I believe they are (1) hot bodies giving off black-body radiation, which is the gold-standard of light spectral distribution for "white" light sources, (2) gas discharge lamps (e.g., neon), and (3) fluorescent lamps.]
As a new kind of light source LEDs present special challenges to the manufacturers, as well as to the designers of light fixtures for various applications of lights that use LEDs. Some of these are creating the "right" color spectrum for the application, making the color output stable over time, making non-flickering dimmers, and driving cost down enough to enable a lighting revolution.
Most of the discussion was about "white" light sources that use a blue LED combined with a phosphor to give the illusion of white light, although there was some discussion of tailoring the spectrum for particular uses (e.g., making particular types of food look more attractive, or helping control the growth phase versus the blooming phase for plants.)
The marketing reports suggested that we are at a critical time, with incandescent lights just beginning to be phased out in favor of fluorescent (including compact fluorescent) lamps and LED lamps. At this time, the principal application of LEDs is for backlighting TVs and other displays. But by the end of the decade most LEDs will be sold for general lighting, and they will be the principal type of light sold for that and most other purposes. However, given the much longer life of LEDs this also means that shortly after 2020 the market for new LED lights will almost completely go away. In response to questions, the speakers opined that OLEDs are not going to be a significant part of the lighting market at least through 2020.
Energy savings will drive much of the LED lighting adoption, but cost will also be an important driver. Lumens per watt and lumens per dollar are both expected to rise dramatically in the coming years, and these changes will be why LEDs will replace most other sources of lighting in the coming years (although fluorescents will linger, especially in commercial applications where color considerations are less important).
The companion exhibit tent housed not only about three dozen exhibitors booths, but also had the refreshments tables for the generously long morning and afternoon breaks, thus insuring that all the attendees got a chance to see what the exhibitors had on display.
Lunch was served by the pool, which was very pleasant, as San Diego gave us their famously perfect weather for the occasion. The food was, in general, very good and the supply of it was ample.
One thing that impressed me greatly was that the organizers had done an excellent job of scheduling. Every session ended on time or slightly ahead of time, even with the speakers taking as many questions as the attendees chose to ask. (This is something I've almost never seen at a conference and was a great and very pleasant surprise to me!)
I was unable to attend the second day, but I'm sure that if I had I would have learned a great deal more. I certainly look forward to seeing later versions of this conference to find out how the industry progresses during the next decade.