Substrate Update: It’s All About Patterning & Large Diameter Wafers

yole_developpement_logoMarket research firm Yole Developpement recently published a new report on front-end manufacturing trends for LEDs. Their latest report gives us some very good news about the sapphire market. Semiconductor Today reported on Yole’s analysis. Here are some big take-aways:

  • There is increased demand for larger-diameter sapphire wafers, with big players (such as LG, Sharp or Osram) moving to 6” wafers and Taiwanese players moving to 4” wafers.
  • LED chip makers demand more patterned sapphire substrates (PSS). PSS are now mainstream in the market with an 87% share as of Q1 2014.
  • While some companies (such as Soraa and Toshiba) have begun mass production of gallium nitride-on-silicon (GaN-on-Si) and GaN-on-GaN LEDs, market penetration of these alternative substrates will depend on future improvements in terms of performance and cost.  Without these improvements, alternative substrates will not be able to fully compete with sapphire-based LEDs.

What does this mean for sapphire makers? LED chip manufacturers are looking to gain production efficiencies, lower costs, and increase performance for their LEDs.  As the adoption for LED lighting increases, they need to make more and better performing LEDs. Large diameter sapphire wafers enable more throughput for each run of the MOCVD reactor, making better use of the reactor “real estate” and decreasing the cost per unit of area processed. Depending on the type of MOCVD reactor used, LED chip manufacturers using six-inch wafer platforms may achieve up to 48% greater usable area per reactor run as compared to two-inch wafers.

What does PSS offer? First, PSS helps improve epitaxial growth by promoting growth of the GaN in parallel to the substrate surface. This helps reduce the number of dislocations, called the dislocation density, which can degrade performance of an LED.  Secondly, patterning can help extract as much as 30 percent more light from an LED.  This is particularly advantageous for high brightness LEDs (HB LEDs) that are used in LED lighting applications.

LED chip manufacturers have been buying smaller 2-inch and 4-inch PSS from outside suppliers for years.  The next step in the evolution in the market is the migration to large diameter PSS. Already a pioneer in the development of large diameter sapphire substrates, Rubicon Technology has developed capabilities for large diameter PSS making it possible to manufacture 6-inch and even 8-inch PSS. Rubicon is already gaining traction in the PSS market.  The company recently reported in their Q1 2014 earnings call that they received their first order for PSS and have samples out to more than a dozen LED chip manufacturers.

For more information about the report from Yole, visit http://www.i-micronews.com/reports/LED-Front-End-Manufacturing-Trends-report/14/433

For Further Reading

Semiconductor Today, Substrates shaping trends in LED front-end manufacturing, http://www.semiconductor-today.com/news_items/2014/APR/YOLE_300414.shtml

Clearlysapphire.com, Larger Wafers, Larger Yield – The Numbers Behind Large Diameter Sapphire Wafers and Yield, http://blog.clearlysapphire.com/?p=435

Clearlysapphire.com, Large Diameter Patterned Sapphire Substrates Explained, http://blog.clearlysapphire.com/?p=582

Clearlysapphire.com, Sapphire Substrates for LED: The Big Move Toward 6″ Has Already Started, http://blog.clearlysapphire.com/?p=37

Have LED Light Bulb Questions? Infographics & Such to “Enlighten”

Angie's List Infographic - LEDs

Angie’s List Infographic – LEDs

A lot of companies are participating in the new LED light bulb market, also called Solid State Lighting or SSL. These companies can be LED light bulb makers or participate by making some component of the LED light bulb ranging from heat sinks and LED chips to the sapphire growers, polishers and fabricators that make the foundation of the LED, the sapphire chip. All of them have a vested interest in helping consumers understand LED light bulbs and why they are different from CFLs and traditional incandescent light bulbs. We’ve gathered together some resources to help consumers understand their lighting options.

The US Department of Energy is leading the effort to educate consumers about their new lighting options and have enlisted companies that participate in the LED lighting market to help. The DOE has developed some very good resources on their own web site for the industry, http://www1.eere.energy.gov/buildings/ssl/. But they’ve also developed resources for consumers to learn more about their lighting choices. Some sample resources for consumers to learn more about LED lighting include a good FAQ here, http://energy.gov/articles/askenergysaver-led-lights.

The Federal Trade Commission requires a new lighting label, Lighting Facts, on all light bulb packages to help consumers understand what they’re buying. Optical and lighting publication Novus Light Today wrote about these new labeling requirements featuring an infographic from light bulb manufacturer Cree.

Cree, Lighting Facts Infographic

Cree, Lighting Facts Infographic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Many of these companies as well as consumer groups are producing infographics to help the consumer learn more. Here’s a round-up of links to additional resources for learning more about LEDs.

Angie’s List, Infographic: What’s in a light bulb?,

http://www.angieslist.com/articles/infographic-whats-light-bulb.htm

The information in the Angie’s List infographic is great, except for the pricing. LED light bulbs have gone down quite a bit in price with some at retailers in the US coming in at just under $10 and a few others cost less and are even more affordable when combined with rebates and other special offers.

Philips, The LED Lighting Revolution, http://community.lighting.philips.com/servlet/JiveServlet/showImage/102-1201-34-4943/Infographic_LED+Revolution_Philips+2012.png

Light bulb vendor Philips compiled a nice all around look at the energy-saving benefits of LED light bulbs and translates them into benefits for the environment and life.

Lumican, Can LED lighting really save energy and money?, http://lumican.com/portfolio-items/can-led-lighting-really-save-energy-and-money/

Canadian lighting solutions provider Lumican highlights US Department of Energy statistics and compares energy usage and savings of LED, halogen, CFL and traditional light bulbs.

LiveScience, NRDC Guide to Light Bulbs, http://www.livescience.com/42509-goodbye-to-old-lightbulbs.html

The NRDC does a great job at comparing LED light bulbs to CFLs and traditional incandescent light bulbs and gives a good explanation at the new light bulb packaging required by the US government.

We’ve also covered LEDs vs. CFLs on the Clearlysapphire blog. You can read them, here:

Clearlysapphire.com, Incandescent Extinction – Which light bulb will win? LED vs. CFL? http://blog.clearlysapphire.com/?p=601

Clearlysapphire.com, Confused about Your Home Lighting? – LED, CFL and Incandescent Compared, http://blog.clearlysapphire.com/?p=492

Clearlysapphire.com, Tipping Point 2: Finally, A Sub $10 LED Light Bulb, http://blog.clearlysapphire.com/?p=371

Clearlysapphire.com, Tipping Point: Earth Day, 100W Light Bulb Reprieve and Alexander Hamilton, http://blog.clearlysapphire.com/?p=169

LEDs, Sleep and SAD –Innovations in Light

Philips Wake Up Light

Philips Wake Up Light

In the past, most people just bought light bulbs without a thought. It was simply about light. There weren’t many extra considerations. Today’s lighting purchase might be made with intelligent applications and even therapeutic reasons in mind, such as seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

Light can help prevent or lessen the symptoms of SAD. According to WebMD, as many as 3% of Americans can suffer from SAD in the winter. When people are exposed to less natural light they may develop depression and anxiety, oversleep, and even have difficulty concentrating. Some people who live in extreme areas that depend on artificial light during long winter months without sunlight can use artificial light derived from LED light bulbs for some SAD relief.

Until now, most SAD sufferers needed special light boxes for SAD-related light therapy. LEDs are a natural light therapy source. Light from almost all LEDs used for lighting, displays and even TVs tend to naturally skew towards the blue part of the spectrum. Blue light stimulates a photoreceptor in the eye that reduces the production of the hormone melatonin and helps people stay awake.

LED lighting companies have begun to leverage blue light for those with seasonal disorders and even sleep issues.

Philips tackled the issue of the lack of light during polar winter in a town in the Arctic, Longyearbyen, Svalbard, where they experience dark for four months straight. Longyearbyen is the northernmost town in the world with 2,000 inhabitants (outnumbered by 3,000 polar bears). For two months, 186 volunteers used the Philips Wake-up Light for a study.  Already proven to work in a number of independent clinical studies, the Philips Wake-up Light was used to help wake up the volunteers with gradually increasing LED light prior to the alarm.

After using the Philips Wake-up Light for six weeks during the polar winter, 87% of residents said that they wake up feeling more refreshed, alert and ready for the day. Philips reported that 98% of residents said they would continue to use the Philips Wake-up Light rather than their previous method of waking up.  You can see a video about the experiment here.

Philips also has designed Philips goLITE BLU to help stave off the winter blues. The goLITEBLU provides the right level of blue light to help regulate a body’s clock and improve mood and energy levels. It is more efficient than traditional white light boxes, producing more concentrated light in a considerably smaller form factor.

For those challenged to wake up without hitting the snooze button repeatedly, there’s the Philips HF3500/60 Wake-Up Light that leverages both music and light to wake you up.  Here’s a link to an entertaining review written by a snooze button addict from Gizmodo.

Lighting Science’s Awake and Alert LED lamp brings more blue light to help people stay awake, while the company’s Good Night light reduces the blue light to help people sleep. The company also has designed the Rhythm Downlight with an app that can keep a sleep schedule for shift workers, those in extra long nights in cold climates and even those in space. The app syncs up with a specially designed digital LED light bulb. When it’s time to begin waking, the bulb will emit more blue light to help you wake up. But when it’s time go to sleep, the percentage of blue light is reduced, turning on your melatonin so you can sleep.

For Further Reading

Discover Magazine, Smart Bulb Helps You Sleep and Wake on Schedule, http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/d-brief/2014/04/04/smart-bulb-helps-you-sleep-and-wake-on-schedule/#.U0K5m_l90xF

The New York Times, LEDs Change Thinking about the Light Bulb, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/06/technology/personaltech/leds-change-thinking-about-the-light-bulb.html?_r=0

Philips, Philips Wake Up the Town, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wotUrbYs0QI

Philips, Wake up the Town: Arctic Experiment Results, http://www.digitalnewsroom.philips.com/pressreleases/Wakeup_light_campaign/Philips_Wake_up_the_town_Final_results_report.pdf

Gizmodo, A Light-Up Alarm Completely Changed My Life, http://gizmodo.com/a-light-up-alarm-completely-changed-my-life-1535668863

The Business Standard, Lights are no longer just for lighting, http://www.business-standard.com/article/beyond-business/lights-are-no-longer-just-for-lighting-114031401155_1.html

LEDs and Location – A New Way to Shop

Location, location, location. Location-based applications have matured a great deal since early navigation devices like Garmin and Magellan GPSs.  Location-based applications are very popular in smart phones. Using the location-based applications, you can tell your friends where you are and can find the nearest coffee shop.  These applications typically use a GPS chip inside the phone or even location technology called U-TDOA (uplink time difference of arrival). These are the same location technologies used for e-911.

The next generation of location based applications are moving indoors. These new apps can bring all kinds of new uses to the typical smart phone. Because these applications are used inside, they can’t rely on GPS or U-TDOA because these technologies need line-of-sight where walls and other obstructions can limit their effectiveness. These next generation indoor location apps rely on new location technologies such as Near Field Communications (NFC), a new version of Bluetooth called Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacon technology, RFID and even LEDs.

ABI Research predicts that the indoor location market will reach $4 billion US in 2018. Big companies are exploring the indoor location market.  Apple and eBay have announced that they’re going to use BLE iBeacon. Apple is actively looking to establish an iBeacon program that can leverage its installed base of iPhones and iTouch devices to provide mobile transactions and offers to retailers and their customers. Retailers such as Macy’s and American Eagle Outfitters are testing iBeacon.  Major League Baseball announced a new agreement to use iBeacon for the upcoming baseball season using Qualcomm hardware.

How do LEDs fit in? Several companies are looking to leverage light.  Philips is looking at one-way communication between networked LED-based luminaires and customers’ smartphones and a new system from ByteLight that uses a LED light fixture to communicate a unique identifier to individuals with smart phones using tiny pulses of light.

Philips recently shared a demo that uses a supermarket scenario using indoor location technology to guide a customer around a store to gather items for a recipe, and allows the store to send special coupons or offers to customers based on their location in the store.  The technology would operate based on the instantaneous response of LEDs in on-off cycles that could transmit data to the camera of a smartphone using light changes undetectable to humans in the store. The customer would need to download an app on their smart phone. Like the ByteLight application, the communication link from the LED luminaires to the smartphone would deliver location data and other offers.

Here’s a diagram from Philips that illustrates how their LED location application would work in a grocery store.

Philips Connected Retail Lighting System

Philips Connected Retail Lighting System

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For Further Reading

LEDsMagazine, Philips Lighting demonstrates LED-based indoor location detection, technology, http://www.ledsmagazine.com/articles/2014/02/philips-lighting-demonstrates-led-based-indoor-location-detection-technology.html

RFID Journal, Retailers Test ByteLight’s Light-Based Indoor Positioning Technology, http://www.rfidjournal.com/articles/view?11474

FierceMobileIT, Indoor location market to reach $4 billion in 2018, predicts ABI, http://www.fiercemobileit.com/story/indoor-location-market-reach-4-billion-2018-predicts-abi/2013-10-18#ixzz2v7TLbqKe

And the Survey Says: Consumer Awareness of Light Bulb Phase-Out Grows

LED Light Bulb

LED Light Bulb

Have you noticed a change in the light bulb aisle at your favorite store?  The shelves look quite a bit different than they did a mere two or three years ago.

When Congress enacted The Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007, they changed general lighting in the United States forever. The legislation created higher efficiency standards for lighting of all kinds from 40–100W incandescent and halogen general-service lamps. As a result, light bulbs that don’t conform to the new standard have been phased-out. Beginning in 2012, 100W lamps were required to be 28% more efficient.  That standard was applied to 75W lamps in 2013 and 40-60W lamps in January of 2014 in a rolling phase-out.

So, what do consumers think? The sixth annual SYLVANIA Socket Survey found that 65 percent of Americans plan to switch to more energy-efficient lighting technologies, as a result of the light bulb phase-out. But, consumers aren’t all the way there yet. The survey revealed that 30 percent of consumers say that they plan to buy a lot of incandescent light bulbs while they’re still available and will continue using them. The 2012 survey found only 19 percent planned to hoard light bulbs. The higher 2013 number is probably due to awareness of the phase-out. Think hoarders…

The survey did have some good news about the phase-out. Since the yearly survey began in 2009, more consumers are aware of it.  This year, 64 percent of consumers were aware of the phase out, compared with only 26 percent in 2009 when the survey began.  And now, more than half of consumers surveyed are excited about the phase-out.  This year’s survey also found that 46 percent of consumers plan to switch to CFLs, 24 percent will opt for LEDs, and 13 percent say that they will choose halogens.

For Further Reading

Sylvania, 6th Annual “SYLVANIA Socket Survey” Finds That Almost Two-Third Of Americans Plan To Switch To Energy-Efficient Lighting As A Result Of Legislation, https://www.sylvania.com/en-us/tools-and-resources/surveys/Pages/socket-survey.aspx

Clearlysapphire.com, Incandescent Bulbs Days are Numbered, http://blog.clearlysapphire.com/?p=27

Clearlysapphire.com, US DOE Reports on Efficiency and Environmental Impact of LED Lighting, http://blog.clearlysapphire.com/?p=156

Super Bowl Halftime Show Sparkles with PixMob LED Light Show

(Bruno Mars peforms during the Super Bowl XLVIII Halftime Show at MetLife Stadium on Feb. 2, 2014 in East Rutherford, N.J., Photograph by: Jeff Zelevansky , Getty Images)

(Bruno Mars peforms during the Super Bowl XLVIII Halftime Show at MetLife Stadium on Feb. 2, 2014 in East Rutherford, N.J., Photograph by: Jeff Zelevansky , Getty Images)

If you watched the recent Super Bowl, you were treated to a cool display of LED technology at half-time featuring Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers and 80,000 people wearing special LED studded hats. Synced up with the music of Bruno Mars and the RHCP, the show filled the stadium with LED lights.

Montreal-based interactive lighting company, PixMob designed and built a unique light show specifically for the halftime show.  Each spectator at the game was handed a complimentary winter gift pack upon entering MetLife Stadium. Each swag bag included items to keep warm, one of the items was a special knit hat that they were asked to wear during half-time.

The stadium was filled with 500 LED panels as well as 14 PixMob transmitters that complemented the LEDs worn by the crowd. The 80,000 knit hats turned each member of the crowd into a pixel.  Each knit hat included three LEDs (for red, blue and green) and an infrared receiver. A PixMob controller directed the light patterns in real time. The receiver in each hat decoded the infrared signal depending on the location of the person wearing the hat, turning the lights red, white, green or blue to create animated effects syncing up with the show.

PixMob has done this type of show before.  They’ve tossed LED-filled beach balls onto audiences and used wristbands fitted with LEDs for unique light shows at music festivals like Coachella and for bands like Arcade Fire, Black Keys and Maroon 5.  There’s even speculation that they’ve got something up their sleeve for the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

For Further Reading

USA Today, Here’s a guide to everything in the Super Bowl swag bag, http://ftw.usatoday.com/2014/01/mike-francesa-super-bowl-swag-bag/

Montreal Gazette, Montreal firm PixMob turns Super Bowl crowd into human pixels, http://www.montrealgazette.com/entertainment/Montreal+firm+PixMob+turns+Super+Bowl+crowd+into+human+pixels/9460693/story.html

Wired, How 80,000 People Became a Human Video Screen at the Super Bowl, http://www.wired.com/design/2014/02/super-bowl-audience-became-human-video-screen/

Philips Lighting, Digital Lighting Makes a Splash at the Super Bowlhttp://www.lumec.com/blog/index.php/2014/02/04/digital-lighting-makes-a-splash-at-the-super-bowl/

Sochi Olympic Venues Light Up with LEDs

The Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia begin in just a few weeks on February 7th with the Opening Ceremonies.  The buzz about the Olympics is only just beginning.  This week Clearlysapphire focuses on the lighting for the games. Unlike many Olympic cities, Russia’s Sochi had to start from scratch and build their entire Olympic infrastructure from scratch. This did allow organizers to focus on building green, including installing green lighting using standards developed by the Russian Federation.  In total 200 buildings were built according to these standards, the first applied to construction in Russia, for the Games.

Organizers selected LEDs for lighting several key venues including Fisht Olympic Stadium, Bolshoy Ice Dome, Shayba Arena, and the Iceberg Skating Palace.  We’ll focus on two of them here.

The Bolshoy Ice Dome, to be used for hockey, features an innovative aluminum roof studded with 38,000 LEDs. Inspired by an ice drop, the roof will light up at night in vibrant colors like this photo. The facility will seat 12,000 people and will be used for concerts and sporting events after the Olympics. Fact:  Bolshoy means “major” in Russian.

Bolshoy Ice Dom, Sochi, Russia, lit up with LEDs, is home to ice hockey.

Bolshoy Ice Dom, Sochi, Russia, lit up with LEDs, is home to ice hockey.

The second building we’ll focus on is the Shayba Arena, also one of the ice hockey venues for the Olympics.  It features the latest in LED scoreboard technology installed by ColosseoEAS, a Slovakian company and a European leader in sports arena technology.  Shayba’s aluminum exterior features 45,000 programmable LEDs.  After the Olympics, the 7,000 seat Shayba will be dismantled and transported to another city in Russia for use as an ice sports facility.  Fact:  Shayba means “puck” in Russian.

Shayba Area is also home to Olympic ice hockey.

Shayba Area is also home to Olympic ice hockey.

For Further Reading

Official Web Site for Sochi 2014, http://www.sochi2014.com

Sports Illustrated, All-new Sochi Olympics venues a spectacle of lights, ice, http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/-olympics/news/20140106/sochi-winter-olympics-stadiums/

Sports Illustrated, First look: Sochi Olympic hockey will live in lights and ice domes, http://nhl.si.com/2014/01/09/first-look-sochi-olympic-hockey-will-live-in-lights-and-ice-domes/

 

 

 

 

 

Incandescent Extinction – Which light bulb will win? LED vs. CFL?

The second phase of the US light bulb phase-out hit a major milestone on Jan. 1, 2014, the deadline to end production of 40- and 60-watt incandescent light bulbs. The deadline passed by with not much notice from consumers.  But, the end of incandescent light bulbs sets up a new battle: LED light bulbs vs. CFLs.

Consumer Sentiments

A recent consumer survey by Osram Sylvania, a light bulb manufacturer, measured public attitudes about energy-efficient lighting and awareness in the US.  Here are some of the results:

  • 4 in 10 consumers are aware of the January 2014 phase out of 60W and 40W bulbs
  • More than half (59%) of consumers are excited about the phase out, as it will help Americans use more energy efficient light bulbs.
  • 46 percent of consumers plan to switch to CFLs,
  • 24 percent will opt for LEDs, and
  • 13 percent say that they will choose halogens.
  • This year, 30 percent of consumers say that they plan to buy a lot of traditional light bulbs where still available and will continue using them.
  • This is a sharp increase from the 2012 Socket Survey which showed just 16 percent said that they plan to stockpile bulbs.

Light Bulb Wars

Consumers still have time to make up their minds about their next light bulb because retailers still have supplies of 40- and 60-watt incandescent light bulbs on the shelves.  Retailers like Home Depot and Lowes have enough stock on the incandescent bulbs for consumers through the spring at least.  However, once the supplies dwindle, what should you buy? LED or CFL?  Let’s compare.

CFLs

A descendant of traditional fluorescent lights, compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) contain argon and mercury vapor housed within that spiral-shaped tube. The bulbs rely on an integrated ballast to produce an electric current that passes through the mixture of gasses, exciting the gas molecules that produce the light.  The time for the ballast to produce the electrical current causes that typical CFL delay when it is turned on.  CFLs use 20-30% less energy than the typical incandescent and last about 9.1 years.  Of course, they do contain mercury, so cleaning up after breaking them and disposing of CFLs after they burn out becomes problematic.  Here’s a link to how to dispose of CFLs safely for you and the environment.

LED light bulbs

Unlike traditional incandescent bulbs, LED light bulbs generate light using a small “package” of several LEDs in a light bulb.  LED light bulbs are more efficient since they use a semiconductor to emit light or photons when electricity is passed through it.  LED light bulbs give off more than 80% of the energy used as light. The good news is that LED light bulbs can cut household energy use by as much as 80% and have a lifetime of as much as 22.8 years, about 2.5 times longer than CFLs.

So what do you choose?

Here’s a quick look at some of the LED and CFL light bulbs available on Homedepot.com (pricing as of 1/8/2014).  While Cree and Philips LED bulbs are a bit more expensive for a single bulb, they do produce a soft white light comparable to CFLS and traditional incandescent, but they last much longer.  If you are looking to save energy, you’ll want to know how efficient they are.  You’ll see this in the chart in the column lumens per watt.  This is a measure of how well the light source produces light.  The higher the number, the better your light bulb is at producing light.  Visit your local retailer to see how they look in person, since tastes vary.  For an explanation of the Color Rendition Index, read this previous post.

A Comparison Guide to LED and CFL Light Bulbs

A Comparison Guide to LED and CFL Light Bulbs

For Further Reading

Fox Business, Retailers Brace for Change Ahead of Incandescent Bulb Ban, http://www.foxbusiness.com/industries/2013/12/31/retailers-brace-for-change-ahead-incandescent-bulb-ban/

Osram, Sylvania Socket Survey, http://www.sylvania.com/en-us/tools-and-resources/surveys/Pages/socket-survey.aspx

NBC News, Majority of Americans still in the dark about incandescent light bulb phase-out, http://www.nbcnews.com/technology/majority-americans-still-dark-about-incandescent-light-bulb-phase-out-2D11805991

NBC News, With incandescents dead, smart bulbs step into the light, http://www.nbcnews.com/technology/incandescents-dead-smart-bulbs-step-light-2D11869426

Buildings, Incandescent Bulb Phase-Out Myths Debunked, http://www.buildings.com/news/industry-news/articleid/16806/title/incandescent-bulb-phase-out-myths-debunked.aspx

Newsday, Light bulb shopping choices under new ban, http://www.newsday.com/business/lightbulb-shopping-choices-under-new-ban-1.6706464

Clearlysapphire.com, Confused about Your Home Lighting? – LED, CFL and Incandescent Compared, http://blog.clearlysapphire.com/?p=492

Decorating for the holidays – LED vs. Incandescent

The Griswold House from National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

The Griswold House from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

It’s that time again and Christmas displays are popping up in and on homes all around the world.  As we watch retailers like Home Depot and Walmart reduce prices on LED light bulbs, the same is happening with LED Christmas lights.  So, is it time to make the switch?

Depending on your tastes, LED lighting for Christmas holiday decorating can be a quick affair with a few strings of lights on your Christmas tree or can be a large artistic expression in light on your home like you’re Clark Griswold of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation movie.

Let’s take a look at some of the facts.

LED lighting for the holidays is safer – they’re not hot to the touch, so they won’t start a fire, especially if lit for a long period of time. They’re sturdier and made of epoxy lenses rather than plastic or glass like traditional incandescents.  They’re longer-lasting and could be in use 20 or even 40 years from now.  And they use less energy (about 80 percent) so that you can connect more strings together in series without blowing a fuse (your’s and the lights).

You might remember the moment in Christmas Vacation when Clark Griswold turned on the Christmas lights on his home (decorated with 25,000 incandescent imported Italian twinkle lights) and caused a major power outage in the city of Chicago.  While you might not take out your local power grid, you might be concerned with your electric bill if you tend to decorate like a Griswold.  You may want to consider some information that the US Department of Energy put together information about energy requirements of Christmas lighting.

According to the DOE, it can cost up to $10 to light a six-foot tree, 12 hours a day for 40 days using large C-9 incandescent lights while incandescent mini-lights would cost about $2.72.  LEDs on the other hand would cost 27 cents or 82 cents respectively to light that same tree for the same period of time.  Over a decade, it could be quite costly to stick with incandescents.  The DOE table is below.

Retailers are bringing more LED Christmas lights to consumers.  According to a recent article in the Kansas City Star newspaper, Walmart dedicated half of its shelf space to LEDs. Costs are coming down from $5 for a string of 50 mini LED lights, down from $6.30 last year.  In fact, Costco won’t sell incandescent Christmas lights in 2013.  General Electric, selling holiday lights since 1903, anticipates that two out of every five strings of lights sold this year will be LEDs.

So, it may be time to ditch the old fashioned Christmas lights for some new LEDs.  And for a laugh and some holiday cheer, watch Christmas Vacation or this clip from the movie where the Griswold’s incandescent Christmas lights take down the Chicago power grid.

US DOE Christmas Light Info

Estimated cost of electricity to light a six-foot tree for 12 hours a day for 40 days

Incandescent C-9 lights $10.00
LED C-9 lights $0.27
Incandescent Mini-lights $2.74
LED Mini-lights $0.82

 

Estimated cost* of buying and operating lights for 10 holiday seasons

Incandescent C-9 lights $122.19
LED C-9 lights $17.99
Incandescent Mini-lights $55.62
LED Mini-lights $33.29

*Assumes 50 C-9 bulbs and 200 mini-lights per tree, with electricity at $0.119 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) (AEO 2012 Residential Average). Prices of lights based on quoted prices for low volume purchases from major home improvement retailers. All costs have been discounted at an annual rate of 5.6%. Life span assumed to be three seasons (1,500 hours) for non-LED lights.

For Further Reading & Viewing

Kansas City Star, Christmas lights are going green, http://www.kansascity.com/2013/11/10/4612642/christmas-lights-are-going-green.html

Energy Manager Today, LEDs Lead the Way for Holiday Lights

http://www.energymanagertoday.com/leds-lead-the-way-for-holiday-lights-096959/

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Griswold Home Power Outage Clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=inWKw8nqQlI

US DOE Info:  http://energy.gov/energysaver/articles/led-lighting

LEDs Help Gravity Movie Makers Simulate Zero-Gravity

Sandra Bullock stars in the film Gravity (Warner Brothers)

Sandra Bullock stars in the film Gravity (Warner Brothers)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You may have seen news about the new George Clooney and Sandra Bullock movie Gravity. The movie details the story of how two shuttle astronauts deal with a shuttle accident while servicing the Hubble Space Telescope.  The movie includes stunning shots showing the actors floating in space.  One trick that the filmmakers used to simulate zero-gravity was LED lighting.

While many movies like Apollo 13 have used parabolic airplane flights to show zero gravity, the director of Gravity wanted longer shots.  The parabolic airplane flights only give you 20 to 30 seconds of weightlessness at a time, so director Alfonso Cuarón looked into alternatives.  Some scenes relied on the actors swimming underwater. Others suspended the actors from wires with puppeteers pulling strings while robots filmed from various angles.

However, the most surprising zero-gravity shot tool was a very large LED light box enclosure filled with thousands of programmable LED lights.  The lights were programmed to show scenes of Earth and space. With the actors inside the enclosure, robotic cameras captured close ups of the actors faces to simulate space.  While the actors were stationary, the light patterns were not, simulating motion and something that appeared to be weightlessness.  The nice thing about this technique was that the actors could see exactly what was happening so they could react to their visual references.  The various shots were blended into the final movie simulating zero gravity.

You can see the trailer here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OiTiKOy59o4

For Further Reading

NBC, Movie Tech: How ‘Gravity’ threw Sandra Bullock into zero gravity, http://www.nbcnews.com/science/how-gravity-threw-sandra-bullock-zero-gravity-big-screen-8C11326787

The Daily Beast, Alfonso Cuarón on the Making of His Instant Sci-Fi Classic ‘Gravity’, http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/10/03/alfonso-cuaron-on-the-making-of-his-instant-sci-fi-classic-gravity.html