The Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPACT 2005) and the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA 2007) issued directives to the Secretary of Energy to carry out a Next Generation Lighting Initiative to support SSL R&D. The legislation directs DOE to support research, development, demonstration, and commercial application activities related to advanced SSL technologies. In order to effectively fulfill the directives in EPACT 2005 and EISA 2007, DOE developed a comprehensive national strategy to build collaborative efforts with the lighting industry and research community to guide SSL technology innovation. The DOE SSL program has been deeply involved in SSL R&D for over a decade—challenging industry with aggressive reach goals for efficacy and performance, and monitoring emerging products to identify performance issues early on, alerting manufacturers to needed improvements.
Despite rapid advances, SSL technology is actually in its early years. When it comes to U.S. energy savings, almost 95% of its potential remains untapped. Continued innovation and breakthroughs in materials, processes, product designs, control systems, and manufacturing are still needed to realize the full potential of the technology.
SSL products are now available for most lighting applications, from living room table lamps to high power sports stadium lights. Today’s products can match or exceed the performance and energy efficiency of the most efficient conventional lighting technologies, including fluorescent and high intensity discharge sources. However, unlike conventional sources, SSL technology still has significant room for additional performance and efficiency improvements, through improved materials, optics, electronic design, system intelligence, and advanced controls.
DOE’s role is to work closely with the industry and lighting user/specifier community to realize this full potential, rather than settling for “good enough.” Potential benefits include cutting U.S. lighting-related energy use by 75% by 2035, along with related environmental protection, improved lighting quality and service, multi-use technology breakthroughs, economic savings, job creation, and U.S. technology leadership.
Research and Development Thrusts
SSL program R&D investments span the spectrum from core technology research and product development to manufacturing and technology application R&D.
- Core technology research projects focus on applied research for technology development, with particular emphasis on meeting efficiency, performance, and cost targets. Conducted primarily by academia, national laboratories, and research institutions, this scientific research fills technology gaps, provides enabling data, and significantly advances the knowledge base.
- Product development projects use the knowledge gained from basic or applied research to develop or improve commercially viable materials, devices, or systems. Conducted primarily by industry, technical activities focus on a targeted market application with fully defined price, efficacy, and other performance parameters necessary for the success of the proposed product.
- Manufacturing R&D projects seek to reduce costs and enhance quality in SSL products, addressing the technical challenges that must be overcome to enable SSL to compete with existing lighting on a first-cost basis. Focus is on significant leaps forward in manufacturing equipment, processes, or monitoring techniques, and on fostering U.S. leadership in SSL manufacturing.
- Technology application R&D projects monitor SSL technology advances and provide field and laboratory evaluations of emerging products, particularly LED lighting systems that involve advanced controls. Impartial, trusted analysis from DOE identifies and characterizes technology problems early on, alerting manufacturers to needed improvements, and helping to put detailed information into the hands of buyers. In contrast to a single project focus, technology application R&D projects address broad issues related to technology performance, with a view that spans the entire industry. This approach creates highly effective feedback loops, inducing manufacturers to make technology improvements with their own funding, more quickly than would otherwise occur. It also feeds back into DOE planning for R&D priorities, allowing DOE to make better informed decisions on R&D investments.
DOE’s SSL program strategically partners with private industry and industry associations to accelerate the development of SSL. DOE’s partnership with the Next Generation Lighting Industry Alliance (NGLIA) enhances the manufacturing and commercialization focus of the DOE portfolio by utilizing the expertise of this organization of SSL manufacturers. DOE partners with the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IES) and the International Association of Lighting Designers (IALD) to provide their professional designers and specifiers with specific, actionable technical information they can use to ask tough questions of their vendors, and thereby exert significant influence on technology development. Together, DOE, IALD, and IES sponsor the Next Generation Lighting Systems competition to encourage innovation and education on leading-edge LED lighting solutions. Learn more.
The nearly 290 solid-state lighting R&D projects DOE has funded since 2000 have resulted in more than 270 patents applied for or awarded and a huge industry footprint, with literally millions of SSL products currently on the market that are based on at least some DOE-funded R&D. Those products have contributed to more than $4.7 billion in energy savings so far – a remarkable return on the total DOE SSL program investment of about $400 million. Learn more about Patents and Products resulting from DOE-funded R&D, and view profiles detailing SSL R&D Program Impacts.