Solid-state lighting (SSL) differs from conventional lighting technologies at the most fundamental level because it’s based on light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and organic LEDs (OLEDs) rather than on filaments, plasma, or gas. Furthermore, all other lighting technologies are more or less “monolithic,” in the sense that their characteristics are severely limited in scope by the very nature of the technologies themselves. But with semiconductor-based SSL technology, many of these historic limitations don’t apply, enabling an astonishingly versatile lighting technology that holds considerable untapped potential. To learn more, see the SSL Posting: Choices, Not Compromises.
The potential of SSL technology to produce high-quality white light with unprecedented energy efficiency is the primary motivation for the intense level of research and development currently supported by the U.S. Department of Energy.
LEDs are directional light sources that offer a number of advantages beyond energy efficiency, including compact size, long life and ease of maintenance, and instant-on performance. In addition, LED sources are inherently dimmable and controllable, and they can be readily integrated with sensor and control systems to enable even further energy savings.
OLEDs are diffuse-area light sources rather than directional point sources, which means they can be viewed directly without the need for shades or diffusers. In addition, OLEDs can be made on flexible substrates, which opens up a whole new world in terms of form factor, lending itself especially well to being incorporated into furniture and architecture.
What will it take to unlock new levels of LED efficacy and performance? While considerable progress has been made in reducing LED product costs and improving performance, there’s still much room for improvement.
While developing rapidly, OLED technology is less mature than LED technology and innovations are still needed on multiple fronts to increase the efficacy, lifetime, and output of OLED devices.
The current LED market focuses primarily on products that fit into the existing infrastructure of legacy lighting products, and this approach presents challenges related to compatibility, interoperability, and interchangeability. It also sharply limits the potential of LED technology.
When comparing LED lighting products to their conventional counterparts, buyers and specifiers must weigh a number of considerations beyond energy efficiency – including cost, color quality and stability, lifetime and reliability, light output and distribution, and dimmability.