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.

LEDs in Space

Here on planet Earth, LEDs have gained a foothold and are finding their way into many new applications, such as consumer electronics, professional sports stadiums and even the headlights of automotive vehicles. But, NASA is out to prove that LED lights could have more extreme, out of this world applications.

Permanent Lunar Life Support

With no atmosphere, the moon is clearly not suitable for growing crops. As NASA researchers tinker with the idea of future long-term lunar residents, they’ve determined food could be grown in sub-lunar lava tubes or greenhouses shielded with layers of rock. LED technology is arguably what will drive photosynthesis within these mediums.

According to Cary Mitchell, a plant biologist at Purdue University, LEDs as lunar light sources would be cool, solid state and robust, not to mention last at least 50,000 hours. LEDs would also be tough enough to survive the journey to the moon, where they could then be strung inside whatever plant growth shelter is decided on.

But inflatable lava tunnels or solid greenhouses aren’t the only devices that have the potential to house crops on the lunar surface.

3D Printable Space Gardens

As a product of NASA’s recent Print Your Own Space Food challenge, the AstroGro system was invented as a way to feed astronauts on deep space missions.

AstroGro is a space garden pod that relies on 3D printing to produce a system that can be replicated and modified while in the depths of space. It consists of plastic pods equipped with LED lights, a watering system and an electronic monitoring system that uses artificial intelligence to provide optimum growing conditions.


Source: Gizmag

The key benefit of AstroGro is that it can be printed in greater numbers to meet demand, produce different pods for new crops or be melted down and recycled. The pods may even have applications on Earth as a way of growing food in the home or nearer to a market.

A Cure for Astronauts’ Insomnia

Not only do LEDs have the potential to be instrumental in feeding astronauts during long missions, they could also help space travelers get a better night’s sleep.

In response to an epidemic of insomnia amongst astronauts on board the International Space Station– roughly half of all astronauts, at some point, take sleep medication – NASA has begun replacing all lighting on the ISS with LEDs. The lights tap into the human brain’s response to light cycles by being programmed to simulate nature – blue lights shine in the morning, white during the day and red in the evening.


Source: Gizmag

LEDs – The Lighting of the Future

Coming back down to Earth, LEDs are continuing to prove their benefits to indoor farming as well as to a better night’s sleep. As experiments with LEDs continue on Earth, and more benefits are discovered, we can expect to see new ideas immerge about how they can impact and improve the future of space travel. LEDs are truly the future both on Earth and in space.


The LED Takeover

Long before Rubicon Technology was manufacturing sapphire for LEDs, it was the incandescent light bulb that illuminated our world. More than one-hundred years ago – in 1879 to be precise -Thomas Edison patented the first incandescent light bulb, igniting the lighting industry and paving the way for the ‘world after dark’ that we enjoy today.

Because of the steady warm glow they produce, incandescent bulbs were soon found to be fitting for most household applications. Fluorescent tube lights, on the other hand, were later developed to produce brighter neon light and be more efficient, making them suitable for commercial applications, such as offices, hospitals and stores.

An outgrowth of the Germans’ 19th century invention of the Geissler tube, the first real challenger to the incandescent bulb for home use, the compact fluorescent lamp (CFL), hit the market in the mid-1980s. Although they were significantly more efficient than incandescent light bulbs, at a retail price of $25-$35, CFLs were also more expensive, deterring consumers at first from purchasing them.

Since the 1990s, however, improvements in CFL performance, price, efficiency and lifespan have led to a rise in their popularity – not to mention they became one of few lighting alternatives available after the phase out of the incandescent bulb began in 2014.

When it comes to which type of light bulb will reign as king in the 21st century, LEDs have undoubtedly stolen the spotlight from CFLs. In addition to being one of the fastest developing lighting technologies today, LEDs are currently the most efficient lighting source on the market.

The first visible-spectrum LEDs were invented in 1962 by Nick Holonyak in the form of red diodes. These initial LEDs first became available to the public in the form of indicator lights and calculator displays in the 1970s. The invention of the blue diode in the 1990s by American Shuji Nakamura, along with Japan’s Isamu Akasaki and Horoshi Amano, quickly led to the development of white LEDs.

Ever since the invention of the white LEDs, we have seen their use explode in a variety of applications. They are now being used in major national and international landmarks such as the Empire State Building and Sydney Opera House, transforming these buildings into energy-efficient and eco-friendly locations. In addition, LEDs have made notable appearances at major events this year all across the globe, including Super Bowl XLIX in the U.S. and Chinese New Year celebrations in both China and Malaysia.


Aside from the more conventional lighting applications, LEDs are also being utilized in the beauty and health industry. NASA developed LED facial technology that is said to plump up aging skin, boost collagen and treat acne. In Iran, LEDs are being used in the treatment of cancerous and precancerous skin lesions and could be used in the treatment of skin cancer in the future.


LEDs have the potential to affect the modern world even more than the original incandescent bulb did in the 20th century. As costs continue to fall and more out-of-the-box applications are discovered, it is clear there is no stopping LEDs from taking over the world.

Nanoscale Patterning: The Future of PSS

As the adoption of patterned sapphire substrates (PSS) continues to rise in the LED industry, the time is now to look ahead to new ideas and theories that have the potential to further advance LED lighting. In particular, recent research surrounding nanoscale patterning proves it has promising applications in the LED industry’s future.

But before diving into new patterning processes, how is PSS currently benefiting the industry?

PSS Today

Etching a pattern directly on to a sapphire substrate increases light extraction, allowing LED manufacturers to create the brightest possible LED lights. There are two main ways patterning can increase the light output of an LED:

1) Patterning promotes lateral growth of the epitaxial layers, reducing epitaxial defect     density, thereby increasing the amount of light emission of active quantum well layers.

2) Patterns help scatter the photons that are emitted, effectively expanding the light           escape cone and increasing total internal reflection, or TIR, and creating a brighter light.

In these ways, patterned substrates contribute to greater light extraction efficiency.  Additional manufacturing efficiencies are available with larger diameter substrates in the form of reduced edge loss, less wafer handling, and potentially greater throughput with each reactor cycle, furthering LED chip manufacturers’ objective of increased lumens per dollar.

How are they made?

To create effective PSS, the structures, which can be in the shape of a cone, dome or pyramid, need to be accurately and uniformly etched. Currently, there are two manufacturing processes that are used to fabricate PSS:

1) Dry plasma etching, the process used for the majority of PSS today because of its greater control of precision and uniformity.

2) Wet chemical etching, which is more scalable and faster than dry plasma etching but produces LEDs that are less effective and efficient.

Great precision is required to maintain uniform patterning over a larger surface; therefore dry plasma etching is the processed used for large-diameter PSS.

Rubicon Blog PhotoWhat’s next?

Research shows that nanopatterning has the potential to be even more efficient than current micro-patterning practices.

Academic researchers have extensively studied nanopatterned substrates to evaluate their potential impact on light extraction efficiency and internal quantum efficiency. The results are extremely promising, as several reports show that LEDs built on nanopatterned substrates produce a significant further increase in luminous efficiency compared with micropatterns.

While it will still be some time before we see nanopatterning used in commercially available LEDs, nanopatterning is an exciting development that shows great promise for the future of LED efficiency.

Sapphire Industry Watch – March 13

  • Rubicon CEO Discusses Applications for Sapphire – NBC 5 Chicago: Bill Weissman, CEO of Rubicon Technology, discusses current uses of sapphire in every day applications such as LED lighting and mobile applications, as well as more unique uses like invisible braces and high-end razor blades. As Rubicon continues to experiment with ways to bring sapphire manufacturing costs down, there is enormous potential for new and exciting applications of sapphire in the future.
  • Are LEDs About to Take Over the World? – The Huffington Post UK: Although the first LED light was produced in 1962, it wasn’t until recently that increased sustainability efforts and lowering costs encouraged the widespread adoption of LEDs. From the Empire State Building’s lighting renovation to NASA’s development of LED facials, it is clear we are living in the age of the LED.
  • Auckland’s bridge lit up by 51 thousand bulbs – stuff.co.nz:  In celebration of the city of Auckland’s 175th anniversary, New Zealand’s iconic Auckland Harbour Bridge is being transformed into an interactive art, music and light show for the next six weeks. More than 51,000 LED light bulbs have been synced to music chosen by the public and performances can be watched in-person, and also via live stream on mobile phones and laptops.
  • San Diego School District Uses Prop 39 Funds for Energy Savings – Energy Manager Today: Thanks to $850,000 in funding from Proposition 39, the California Clean Energy Jobs Act, the Del Mar Union School District in San Diego will be replacing current light fixtures with longer-lasting LED light fixtures with occupancy sensors and dimming controls. The school district will also receive a rebate for the LED installations from San Diego Gas & Electric.

Sapphire Industry Watch – March 6

  • Humble light bulb helps Japan fill nuclear gap – Chicago Tribune: When the Fukushima nuclear meltdown of 2011 resulted in the closure of many of Japan’s reactors, a national campaign was started to reduce energy consumption. Since the start of 2012, 73 million LED light bulbs have been sold in Japan, comprising about 30 percent of all bulbs sold there.  As LED adoption continues to increase, the country is also pursuing alternative energy sources such as solar power to help relieve the pressure caused by the shuttering of its nuclear energy program.
  • Revamped Dubai park to bask in the sunshine – Khaleej Times:  Al Khazan Park – which officially opened to the public on March 2 – has been revamped into Dubai’s first sustainable park. An off-grid solar power system and LED lights will reduce the amount of CO2 emissions annually by 44.5 tons, which is the equivalent to saving 1,100 trees.
  • Europe to have 2.9 bn general lighting LED lamp installations by 2019 – Greentech Lead: According to an ElectroniCast Consultants report, the number of LED lights installed for general lighting in Europe will grow at an average annual rate of 58.7 percent, rising from 288 million in 2014 to 2.9 billion in 2019. The European market is predicted to grow at a slightly faster rate than the U.S. market during the same time frame. Europe is expected to maintain its leadership in relative market share throughout the forecasted period.
  • SF Ferry Building Gets Makeover for World’s Fair Centennial Anniversary – ABC 7: To celebrate the centennial anniversary of the San Francisco World’s Fair, the iconic Ferry Building has been lit up the same way it was when the fair opened in 1915. Only this time the building will be lit up with nearly 1,100 energy efficient LED lights. The lights will stay up through December with two large beacons commemorating the year 1915.

Industry Watch — Sapphire at CES 2015

CES 2015 has come and gone and, as usual, we are left with an overwhelming amount of new and exciting products to sift through.

Don’t worry though! If you’re interested in all things sapphire-related coming out of the show, we have you covered.

Here are the biggest sapphire related unveilings from CES 2015:

  • CES2015: Hands On With Huawei’s Ascend P7 – Android Headlines: While Apple may have failed to incorporate sapphire into its new iPhone, Chinese smartphone manufacturer Huawei has had no problem incorporating the material. During CES, Huawei showcased a variety of smartphones in its booth, including phones from its Premium “P” series. This included the new, Huawei Ascend P7, which features a 5 inch display and an optional sapphire faceplate. 
  • Garmin’s fēnix 3 Multisport GPS Watch Keeps Its Active Side Secret – Gizmodo: Garmin’s popular fēnix adventure watch is receiving a facelift this year to make the rugged timepiece look more polished. The third-generation watch is still fully capable with GPS and pre-set modes for various outdoor activities like swimming or skiing, but is now sleeker with a high-contrast color display and a scratch-resistant sapphire face. 
  • Wellograph, the first sapphire crystal wellness watch, gets a new look, more color choices – AppAdvice: The team that developed the Wellograph wellness watch announced an OS update, new color choices and straps at CES. The Wellograph, which is best known for being the first wellness watch to incorporate sapphire into its display, now offers a new OS which will provide users with features such as sleep tracking and body readiness testing. Along with the new features, the watch is now available in pink gold and white pearl.
  • Sony’s Life Space UX makes the smart home look good – Mashable: One of the most buzzworthy terms at CES over the past few years has been the Internet of Things. With beautifully designed devices and appliances, Sony’s Life Space UX gives just a peek at what the smart home of the future will look like. The highlight of the collection is the Symphonic Light, which combines an LED light with a clear glass covering that doubles as a speaker. The LED bulb, which uses sapphire substrates, makes this light not only attractive, but energy-efficient as well. The Symphonic Light streams music from a smartphone or other connected device, and multiple lights can be connected to fill a room with sound.Sony

Forget Playing Under the Lights, LEDs Let You Play on Top of Them

You would think that there is little in the world of basketball that could leave Kobe Bryant speechless. The Mamba has seen his fair share of amazing plays, arenas and players, so it would be safe to say that much on the basketball court doesn’t impress him.

That all changed when he caught a glimpse of the new LED basketball court at the “House of Mamba” in Shanghai.

The court — created by Nike — has LEDs and sensors built into the floor that allow for it to change its display, markings and images almost instantly. While it can display a classic basketball court layout, the real value for the court comes from the fact that it can be programmed to show a variety of training drills and exercises. Athletes can follow lights and lines to practice footwork drills, all while the sensors in the floor track their time and progress, and then display the players’ time.

The “House of Mamba” was built as a part of Nike’s Rise campaign, a competition to find China’s best young basketball players, with the top three moving on to the Nike World Basketball Festival in Barcelona. Thirty players were brought in to run through a variety of drills based on Kobe’s own training regimen.

This basketball court not only represents the future of high-end athletic training, but also makes us think about how LEDs can affect athletics in the future. From the instant ability to change the floor lines in multipurpose rooms depending on the sport being played, to sensors and lights that track faults and out-of-bounds in sports like tennis and volleyball, LEDs will provide tremendous value for both amateur and professional athletes alike.

“LEDs are giving us the ability to do creative things that were never done, or even imagined, before with traditional lighting products,” said Jed Dorsheimer, Managing Director at Equity Research. “The use of LEDs in basketball courts is just one more example of how solid-state lighting is breaking from the mold of how lighting can be used. With the phasing out of incandescent light bulbs and the new creative uses for LEDs, the solid-state lighting market has the potential to be much larger than the traditional lighting market.”

Check out the video of Nike’s “House of Mamba” LED basketball court, and let us know in the comments what you think the future of LEDs in sports will be.


LEDs Shine Brighter with Patterned Sapphire Substrates (PSS)

LEDs are being adopted across a wide range of products, from general lighting, automobile headlights and traffic signals, to backlighting for consumer devices like HDTVs, smartphones and tablets.

Evidence of that, LED manufacturers racing to improve luminous output and reduce cost in order to win greater market share.

The July/August 2014 issue of LEDs Magazine features Rubicon Technology’s Donggeun Ko, Jacob Yoon and Jangho Seo, who discuss how applying patterns on an LED substrate or wafer can significantly help increase LED light extraction.

In fact, it’s reported that patterning can improve the extraction of light by as much as 30 percent.

The article in LEDs Magazine outlines key considerations for effective PSS design to maximize light output of LED chips, such as reducing defect density and total internal reflection losses.

The full article in LEDs Magazine can be viewed here.

It’s also worth mentioning …

Today, sapphire wafer manufacturers have begun to put patterns on sapphire wafers in partnership with the LED chip manufacturers, with most sapphire manufacturers concentrating on small diameter patterning in the 2-to-4 in. range.

Manufacturers of large diameter wafers, such as Rubicon Technology, are developing PSS for large wafers (up to 8 in. diameters) and differentiating their offerings with better quality control and an unmatched end-to-end manufacturing process.

Interested in learning more? Check out additional info about patterned sapphire substrates here.

Sapphire Demystified

A look at Rubicon Technology's sapphire

A look at Rubicon Technology’s sapphire

There has been so much hype and misinformation about sapphire lately, particularly surrounding sapphire covers or faceplates for smartphones, that we thought we’d review some basic info about commercial sapphire.

  • “Sapphire glass”

There really isn’t any such thing as sapphire “glass.” Sapphire is not a kind of glass; it’s a very hard monocrystalline material. The proper way to reference the clear layer of stuff that may soon cover the screen of your smart phone is as a “sapphire cover” or “sapphire faceplate.” Glass is made of silica or sand, and sapphire is made from aluminum oxide. The two materials have very different physical properties. So, glass isn’t really the right descriptor.

  • Sapphire is unbreakable.

Well, no. That’s not really accurate. A thin piece of sapphire can shatter, similarly to glass or a piece of gorilla glass. Sapphire is the second hardest material on Earth (after the diamond). As such, a thin slice of sapphire will shatter. What is sapphire good at? Sapphire is scratch resistant. That’s one of the main reasons why smartphone vendors are interested in sapphire for applications in lenses and fingerprint scanners.

  • Sapphire is blue.
Sapphires come in a range of colors.

Sapphires come in a range of colors. The purest sapphires are clear.

Yes and No. Sapphire, also called corundum, comes in a range of colors. The purest form of sapphire is clear.  Sapphire is a crystal made from Aluminum Oxide (Al2O3). Natural sapphire forms over thousands of years in the earth, but comes in different colors due to impurities such as minerals or other conditions (like humidity or radiation). Rubies are made of aluminum oxide and are actually sapphires. They are red because the crystal contains impurities in the form of the mineral chromium, making the crystal red. Sapphire gemstones get their blue hue from iron and titanium. Yellow sapphires get their color from a combination of iron and radiation (interesting).  The commercial sapphire that’s now being used in consumer electronics is very pure, so it’s colorless.

  • Sapphire in LEDs and smart phones is from blue sapphire gemstones.

No. The sapphire that is used in LEDs and smartphones is grown in a commercial setting using one of few processes – the Verneuil Method, Kyropoulous Method, Heat Exchanger Method, Czochralski Method and Edge-Defined Film-Fed Growth Method. Each method has its differences, but they produce a single crystal of clear sapphire that is fabricated (cut and polished) into a sapphire substrate used in an LED or into a lens or faceplate for optical uses like smart phones.