This week: competition in action, why we need to be politically conscious about the messages on LED packaging, and grants to advance OLEDs.
Grants for OLED technology
The US Department of Energy's Office of Science awarded four Small Business Innovation Research grants to companies pursuing organic LED research and development. The companies are Plextronics Inc., Universal Display Corp., InnoSys Inc., and Litecontrol Corp.
Plextronics is looking to "demonstrate the fabrication of large-area OLED panels on low-cost anode structures using inkjet-printed grids and reactive silver ink." Universal Display is working on OLED utility lighting for aircraft interiors, and Litecontrol is developing a line of architectural OLED lighting fixtures.
Verbatim's MR16 lamp uses RGB phosphors
A recent announcement from Verbatim points up aspects of LED lighting that elude the CRI standard. Verbatim's MR16 retrofit lamp, called the VxRGB Vivid Vision, is based on a violet LED and a mix of red, green, and blue phosphors. While the CRI of the 2900K lamp is only 85, Verbatim claims that it is "particularly effective in spaces where small differences in color hues, tints, and textures can have a significant impact," especially where emphasizing saturated colors is important.
The CRI measure completely misses the claimed advantage of this product. Earlier this year, LEDs Magazine ran a four-part series on color science by Avnet's George Kelly and Part 4 contains one of the best explanations I have read on what CRI is and what it does well and not-so-well. (A sidebar in the article contains the exact formula for calculating CRI.)
An alternate color metric proposed by NIST in 2010, the color quality scale or CQS, has not seen wide adoption. The CQS was designed to shore up exactly those weaknesses of CRI that Verbatim's MR16 lamp exemplifies.
How competition plays out on the ground
Cree has begun selling its light bulbs in all 180 Home Depot stores across Canada. A Reuters account includes a sidelight on how Cree and another big player in residential LED lighting are throwing elbows at each other in the residential market for replacing incandescents. The other player in question is Philips, a division of which sponsors this site.
It seems that an analyst firm, Sterne Agee, last week downgraded its rating on Cree, noting that "aggressive behavior" by Philips Lighting North America was expected to cut into Cree's business by the second and third quarters of this year. Reuters talked to a Home Depot buyer, who said that "LED-based lighting has surged in popularity in the last 18 months, and since November has been the single most popular type of lighting by value in Home Depot's Canadian stores. The vast majority of those sales have been of light bulbs made by Philips..."
For its part, Cree claimed that Philips's actions amounted to an endorsement of Cree as the innovation leader. Perhaps this head-fake worked; the downgrading hasn't hurt Cree's stock price much if at all.
Lamp labeling and political leaning
Academic researchers studied people's willingness to buy energy-saving CFL light bulbs, and found that those professing a more conservative ideology were less likely to spend extra for bulbs labeled with a "protect the environment" message. The researchers concluded that the polarizing debate about human-caused global warming was at the heart of this reluctance. They suggest emphasizing other messages on the packaging of energy-saving products -- this would absolutely include LEDs -- that stress other values more widely shared across the political spectrum, such as energy independence or financial incentives. Here is the abstract of the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
— Keith Dawson , Editor-in-Chief, All LED Lighting