LED street lights: The fuel of the future?

In less than 150 years, cars have transformed from clunky gas-guzzlers into sleek energy-efficient machines.

Gas GuzzlerTesla

According to new information from the Centre for Solar Energy and Hydrogen Research, the global market for electric vehicles (EVs) is expanding at a growth rate of 76 percent, reaching 740,000 units earlier this year.

In consideration of this rapid increase of Teslas and other pure-battery powered vehicles on the road, debates are emerging over the best way to implement charging stations.

A team at Mini proposes the solution lies within existing urban landscape infrastructure.

During Low Carbon Oxford Week 2015, the British automotive brand demonstrated its “Light and Charge system”, a new technology that would allow EV drivers to charge their vehicles from LED street lights.


Given street lights run along the sides of most roads and are already connected to main sources of electricity, Mini’s approach has the potential to make more charging points available to drivers than there are fuel pumps currently available. The Light and Charge points could be set up at any location where there is a street light and safe parking is available.

The Light and Charge units would employ amodular LED design, proving the global widespread conversion to LED street lights could have even greater benefits for cities than just energy savings. Presuming street lights along busy main streets would be accessed most frequently, Mini says they would likely require four LED modules while street lights along quieter residential streets would suffice with only one or two.

Ease of use may be the best benefit of the Light and Charge points, however. EV drivers need only connect their vehicle using a standard charging cable then swipe a credit card to begin charging.

As the number of EVs on the road continues to grow, Mini’s showcase piece could very well become reality. Although the Light and Charge system has yet to be adopted widely, this technological breakthrough shows LED street lights could play a role in ushering in a future filled with electric vehicles.

Sapphire Industry Watch – July 31

  • Lamp runs for 8 hours on one glass of water and some salt – Treehugger: Aisa Mijeno, CEO of Sustainable Alternative Lighting (SALt Corp.), has developed an LED lamp capable of running for eight hours a day on one glass of water and two tablespoons of salt. The lamp was designed by Mijeno to be a practical lighting solution for people in undeveloped areas  that lack reliable access to light at night.
  • The Skysphere: New Zealander Jono Williams builds solar-powered retreat for $75,000 – Stuff.co: Construction novice Jono Williams has designed and built an app-controlled, solar-powered tower deemed the “Skysphere”. Complete with voice-controlled colored LED lighting, fingerprint locks, motorized doors and a wireless sound system, Williams said he plans to put his new expertise in green-energy design to good use by designing a fully off-grid house.
  • Seven technologies that will save the Earth – World Policy Blog: As renewable energy options become more accessible and affordable, populations around the globe are lessening their dependency on fossil fuels and turning their attention to more sustainable alternatives instead. LEDs, vertical farming and smart grids are just a few of the green technologies gaining momentum today.
  • Six ‘solar cities’ to be developed in the northeast – The Times of India: In an effort to improve India’s energy crisis and popularize the use of solar energy, the Tripura government is developing six cities in the northeast into solar cities. As part of the project, solar hot water systems and LEDs are being installed.

Sapphire beyond the smart watch

Some day in the not-so distant future, our way of interacting with the world around us will be vastly different. Technology that seems like science fiction today – such as glasses with heads-up displays and connected headbands – will be the norm for average people. Desktop computers will be technologically archaic and non-smartphones will simply no longer exist.

3D Display

But before we get too carried away, let’s rewind to the present.

The Apple Watch broke ground for the consumer wearable device segment this year after it was reported last week that over 4.2 million units have been shipped since April 2015. According to research firm Canalys, Apple has easily overtaken more established companies like Fitbit and Xiaomi in just three months.

But while the smartwatch market gradually gains momentum, the augmented reality and wearables industries overall still face many obstacles on the road to success, especially in the form of consumer devices.

Photonics Spectra recently noted three challenges these industries must overcome before wearables can achieve wider consumer interest and, ultimately, adoption.

1)      System cost

2)      Materials

3)      Practical use

With the development of a wearable device, comes the need for a screen material that can put up with the rigors posed by exposure to the environment. Specifically, these devices are generally in more vulnerable locations than a phone. Fortunately, sapphire is a solution that is becoming more obtainable due to new manufacturing techniques.

Although currently more expensive than glass, sapphire’s greater scratch resistance, strength and durability allows products to be thinner, which can be a plus in wearables considering consumers desire their devices to blend in as stylish fashion accessories.

In addition, sapphire manufacturers are continuing to innovate by developing new solutions for the next generation of wearables. One such solution, sapphire coated glass, will give companies the ability to develop screen covers that are not only strong, but can mold to curved devices. These coatings will be directly applied on top of glass and will provide similar durability as sapphire, at a lower cost.

Already prominently used on a variety of mobile and wearable devices, including the Apple Watch, sapphire will likely be used on the screens of many cutting edge gadgets. As production methods continue to improve, the futuristic applications for sapphire are limitless.

Sapphire Industry Watch – July 24

  • LAX unveils new energy efficient lighting scheme – Airport World: Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) has debuted a host of new energy efficient lighting features, including new LED light poles and a “lightband”, which are currently featuring a light show displaying the colors of the Special Olympic World games, which will be held in Los Angeles this summer. The new lighting features mark the completion of Phase II of the LAX Central Terminal Area Curbside Appeal and Roadway Improvement Project that began in Spring 2014.
  • Blue LED lighting to kill food-borne pathogens without chemical treatment – Airfal International: Scientists from the National University of Singapore have found that blue LEDs have a strong antibacterial effect on major foodborne pathogens, particularly in cold temperatures and mildly acidic conditions. Originally published in Food Microbiology, these findings could potentially be applied to preserve fresh-cut fruits or chilled meat products, without requiring any further chemical treatments.
  • Large lighting makers continue to transition to LEDs – Semiconductor Today:  As the lighting market continues to make the shift towards LED technology, IHS Technology forecasts LED lamp revenue will grow to 67% by 2022. A growing market for LED lighting technology has consequently resulted in a shrinking market for halogen, compact fluorescent lamps and other traditional lighting technologies.
  • Government committed to making LED a way of life in India – The Hindu Business Line: Over the next three years, the Indian government aims to completely replace all incandescent bulbs in the country with LED lights, offering a huge business opportunity for the lighting industry. The government also seeks to impose quality standards on lighting products that are imported into the country.

The “smartness era” of light bulbs

Emitting light is a trivial capability of the modern-day bulb.

Thanks to new technologies and market changes, light bulbs are evolving to include new features, such the ability to act as musical speakers, smoke detectors and even indoor GPSs!

Initially forecasting that two million connected bulbs would be sold in 2015, IHS lighting industry analyst Will Rhodes says that number could grow as consumers are picking them up even faster than originally thought.

It’s evident that in combination with Internet of Things (IoT) architectures, LEDs are leading light bulbs into a “smartness era”.

Unlike compact fluorescent bulbs, LEDs are based on semiconductors and typically already have a collection of chips and other electronics inside of them. This makes it relatively easy to add in other chips and electronic modules like radios and speakers.

But what is it exactly that makes a bulb “smart”?

Gartner defines smart lighting as a lighting system that is connected to a network and can be both monitored and controlled from a centralized system or through the cloud.

French supermarket chain, Carrefour, for example, utilizes a smart LED lighting system capable of sending special offers and location data directly to shoppers’ smartphones. Codes are transmitted to phone cameras via visual light communications (VLC) that is undetectable to the human eye, enabling shoppers to quickly receive information on promotions going on around them.

VLC can be used as a standalone solution or supplementary to radio-frequency. However, it cannot penetrate obstructions such as walls.


The benefits of smart lighting expand far beyond high-tech convenience, however. According to Gartner, smart lighting installations in office buildings and industrial areas have the potential to reduce energy costs by 90 percent, while LED installations alone result in energy savings of approximately 50 percent.

At this point in time, the installation of true smart lighting systems is driven primarily by government regulations around energy savings and bulb recycling laws. However, the costs of smart bulbs are likely to come down in the near future and standardized ways of connecting them will likely be developed.

Although it’s likely the current light bulbs in your house cannot do much more than turn on and off, one day we may wonder how we ever got by without smart bulbs!

Sapphire Industry Watch – July 17

  • Photos: Clean energy innovations are lighting up Africa – Quartz: In 2013, President Barack Obama launched Power Africa, an initiative to bring 30,000 megawatts of clean electricity to sub-Saharan Africa, where 600 million people live without power. Supported by the US Agency for International Development, 4,100 megawatts of power have been delivered so far, a portion of which has come in the form of solar LED lamps.
  • University of Buffalo invention takes new approach to fighting insomnia – ABC 8 News: A University of Buffalo professor is spearheading research that aims to cure insomnia – something that more than 60 million Americans suffer from. Her invention called “Re-timers”, are LED light goggles that can reset the brain’s natural sleep cycle. Using green LED lighting, the goggles shut off Melatonin in the early morning in order to advance sleep rhythms come evening.
  • How smart lighting has the potential to reduce energy costs by 90% – First Post: Internet of Things (IoT) architectures are rapidly driving smart lighting technology, so much so, that the worldwide commercial space for smart lighting is expected to double in 2015. According to Gartner, smart lighting installations in office buildings and industrial areas have the potential to reduce energy costs by 90 percent, while LED installations alone result in energy savings of approximately 50 percent.
  • LED grow light market worth $1.9B by 2020 – Compound Semiconductor: A new MarketsandMarkets report forecasts that the LED grow light market will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 26 percent over the next five years. As awareness of LED grow lights’ benefits increases, the market will experience a high growth phase in applications such as vertical farming, commercial greenhouse and indoor farming.

LEDs under the sea

Temperatures continue to spike across the country, making it glaringly evident that summer’s hit its stride. Time to pack up your sunscreen and cruise to the beach!

While the soft sand sifts through your fingertips and crashing waves tempt you to dive in, pause for a moment to look around – you’ll likely notice more ocean conservation and animal endangerment signs than ever before.

As environmental activists strive to increase awareness and encourage community members to be more proactive, you might be surprised to learn that LEDs are beginning to play a role in improving your beloved oceanic environments.

From a lighting system capable of increasing coral growth to lighted fish nets that prevent overfishing, here’s a look at some of the ways LEDs are being used today to protect the sea.

LEDs speed up growth in coral reefs

Two award-winning students from Burapha University in Thailand recently invented a computer-controlled LED lighting system capable of stimulating and quickening the growth of coral in threatened reefs. By using different shades and light frequencies to simulate natural sunlight and moonlight, the system’s LED bulbs enable coral to reach growth maturity weeks, and even months, faster than normal.

Sea turtle hatchlings saved by LED lights

When baby sea turtles first emerge from their eggs, they should make their way to the ocean by instinctively following the moonlight reflected off the water. However, in Florida, turtles have become confused by the bright incandescent lights of hotels and restaurants along the beaches and often die as they mistake crawling toward civilization for crawling toward the moonlit ocean.

Fortunately, certain LED lights operate at levels that do not attract sea turtles, and many properties are switching to these new LED lights. As a result, there has been a significant decrease in the number of baby turtle deaths.

Sea TurtlePhoto Credit: Scientific American

LED fish nets prevent bycatching and overfishing

Globally, about 40 percent of marine life that winds up in a fishing net goes wasted or unmanaged. In an attempt to preserve the delicate marine ecosystem and save endangered marine species, a British designer has come up with a new type of fishing net that is equipped with LEDs.

The LEDs are attached to large light hoops positioned throughout the netting that alert smaller fish and allow unwanted fish to escape. The LED hoops can operate at different wavelengths, helping save sea turtles and hammerhead sharks, as well as bottom-dwelling ocean species.

LED Fishnets

Photo Credit: LEDinside                

Although there’s still a long way to go towards improving the health and safety of marine wildlife, LEDs are helping to bring us one small step closer. As new uses are discovered, it isn’t hard to imagine LEDs playing an integral role in ocean revitalization for years to come.

Sapphire Industry Watch – July 10

  • The Opening Ceremony: A Superlative Show of Lights – FISU: South Korea put on a show during the spectacular opening ceremony of the 2015 World University Games in Gwangju. From individual lights on stadium seats to a display of Korea’s national symbol in the arena’s interior, LEDs expressed images of infinite potential to the participating athletes and viewers.
  • Statue of Liberty Gets New Lighting System – CBS New York: A new LED lighting system has been placed on the grounds around the Statue of Liberty in an effort to reduce energy consumption and enhance the viewing experience in the evening hours. The lighting equipment was donated by Musco Lighting, who has recently installed LEDs at several national monuments, including Mount Rushmore and the White House.
  • St. Paul’s Cathedral Goes Green – The Age: Using cranes and scissor lifts, a team of electricians replaced 350 light bulbs hanging from the 15-meter tall ceiling of St. Paul’s Cathedral with new, energy efficient LEDs. The lighting project, which includes rewiring, new light fittings and a smartphone-controlled dimmer system, will cut the Australian church’s carbon footprint by nearly one third.
  • Orlando Eye hopes to turn heads with well-times colors – Orlando Sentinel: In celebration of Independence Day, the Orlando Eye was the canvas for a red-white-and-blue LED light show. At 400 feet tall and equipped with 64,000 programmable LEDs, patriotic imagery, including the American flag, was displayed on the wheel each night from July 3 through 5.

Sapphire Industry Watch – July 3

  • Legally blind Hobart man sees the light by making log lamps from Tasmanian timber – ABC News: Duncan Meerding, a legally blind furniture and lighting designer, has created unique log lamps using solely Tasmanian wood waste and LED lights. Meerding’s vision behind the design was to create sustainable furniture that could be kept and passed down through generations to come.
  • Slideshow: Fashion takes spotlight at CE Week – Dell: During New York City’s largest consumer electronics and technology event, CE Week, the tech and fashion industries collided during the futuristic FashionWare runway show. Proving geek can be chic, LED lights, smart jewelry and dresses embedded with sensors made modernistic fashion statements on the runway.
  • Targeted LEDs could provide efficient lighting for plants grown in space – Phys.org: Research from Purdue University found that hydroponically-grown leaf lettuce can thrive under red and blue LEDs. Additionally, the LEDs used 90 percent less electrical power per growing area in comparison with traditional lighting methods. This finding could advance the development of crop-growth modules for space exploration.
  • 7 Uses for LED Lighting Technology – Novus Light: LED technology has rapidly developed to become one of the leading and most prominent lighting solutions offered today. Due to the versatility of LEDs, they’re finding some highly innovative and interesting applications, including bionic LED contact lenses and LED wallpaper that can be programmed to present different settings on the walls of your home.

Patriotic LEDs make holiday shine brighter

From the sun-kissed shores of the Golden State to historic harbors along the tip of Maine, skylines from sea to shining sea will proudly be glowing red, white and blue this weekend.

As Americans prepare to celebrate the day that marked their independence with barbecues, parades and pool parties, here’s a preview of the most spectacular patriotic fireworks and LED light shows the nation can expect to see on Saturday night.

Empire State Building — New York City, New York ESB

Since its LED makeover in late 2012, the lights on top of New York’s most iconic building have complemented Macy’s legendary Fourth of July fireworks production. Dancing, fluttering, sparkling and moving in endless combinations to classics like Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York”, the LEDs are timed to mirror the grand finale of the fantastic explosions that take place over the Hudson River.

Aside from Independence Day, the Empire State Building illuminates for several other special events and national holidays throughout the year, including pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Month and green for St. Patrick’s Day. The Fourth of July collaboration with Macy’s, however, is by far the 102-story building’s biggest, most visible display yet.

Boston Pops — Boston, Massachusetts

Boston Pops

As is annual tradition, the Boston Pops Orchestra will perform a free concert at the Esplanade in Boston, Massachusetts, this July 4th. Each year, the show draws more than a half-million people to the patriotically lit Hatch Shell and is broadcast live on Boston’s local TV station, WBZ-TV.

Specializing in light classical music, the Boston Pops performs delightful tunes that help build anticipation for the city’s awe-inspiring fireworks choreography over the banks of the Charles River.

Walt Disney World— Orlando, Florida 


On July 3rd as well as the 4th, the Magic Kingdom theme park at Disney World will celebrate the traditions, spirit and music of the United States with a special 15-minute fireworks show and whimsical light display of the American flag on the iconic Disney castle. Using all perimeter firework sites, the show gives a 360-degree effect from inside the park while more than 1,500 shells will be launched.

When paired with spectacular aerial fireworks displays such as these in New York City, Boston and Orlando, the brightness and colors of LED lights help make special holidays shine that much brighter.

Happy Fourth of July from Rubicon Technology!