Sapphire Industry Watch – May 15

  • A giant Pac-Man is going to take on Sydney’s Vivid light festival – Business Insider Australia: At this year’s “Vivid Sydney”, an annual 18-day festival of light and music, students from the University of New South Wales will premiere a giant robotic Pac-Man game, complete with glowing LED ghosts and a three-meter maze. Created using a mix of programmable LED strip lighting, laser-cut and 3D printed materials, installations like this are the reason the event is highly popular amongst tourists and locals, attracting 1.43 million visitors in 2014.
  • LED market outlook is bright – Energy Manager Today: According to a recent report from Navigant Research, the cost of LEDs has declined to a point where LED lighting is becoming the most economical choice for nearly every application. Through 2024, unit shipments of LED lamps and modules are expected to experience an overall 19 percent compound annual growth rate.
  • Construction of SunTrust Park enters next phase – WSB Radio: As construction of the Atlanta Braves’ new stadium, SunTrust Park, ramps up, the MLB team has decided to install LED lighting. Braves’ VP Mike Plant says LED lighting provides many benefits to the in-game experience, including better visual quality for fans watching in the stands and on TV at home and faster on/off capabilities compared to other lighting options.
  • America’s smartest bridge to get connected lighting system – New Civil Engineer:  The new Tappan Zee Bridge in New York will have the first ever connected LED lighting system for both its road and architectural lighting. The lighting will be able to be controlled remotely from a single dashboard to reflect special occasions such as holidays or wins by local sports teams. Upon completion in 2018, the bridge will be the most technologically advanced bridge in North America.

LEDs Light the Way for Automotive Industry

It’s a familiar experience — it’s late at night and you’re driving along a dark, curvy road. You take a turn around a corner and all of a sudden an oncoming car practically blinds you with its high beam lights.

Thanks to the help of LEDs, that problem could soon be eradicated entirely. LEDs are quietly heading up a revolution in the automotive industry, leading to new vehicle designs and providing enhanced nighttime vision and safety for drivers.

There’s no mistaking the glow of an LED headlamp in the newer automotive models, especially in comparison to the yellow tinge of their older counterparts. LEDs are even serving as identifiers and differentiators between different makes and models.

For instance, there’s no mistaking the distinct shape of Audi headlights:


Or the four circles on BMW models:


Because they are smaller, run cooler and use less energy than traditional light bulbs and standard automotive headlamps, LEDs are catching on in the automotive industry — much like they are gaining popularity in commercial and residential uses.

But these LEDs aren’t just for looks and show.

For instance, when combined with cameras, these “smart” headlights are more than just a standard set of high beams and low beams. Instead, they can continuously alter light patterns to adjust to the immediate road and weather conditions. The system is so good at not shining light on vehicles traveling ahead of it that the high beam can remain on and adjust itself, even if eight cars are in front — giving nighttime drivers a better, safer experience.

If Americans are looking to reap the benefits of this sort of smart technology, they may have to wait a few years. Unfortunately, all cars sold in the United States must adhere to a specific light pattern, so all models are fitted with standard headlights.

Automakers are even projecting that a time will come when headlights will be able to project patterns like a foot path on the road to help pedestrians cross the street, or even lines to the left and right of the vehicle as it passes through a construction zone to avoid any hazards.

But until then, we can look in awe at the European cars and their “smart” headlights.

Sapphire Industry Watch – May 8

  • The Hidden Perils of Energy Efficient Fluorescent Lighting – Sourceable: Fluorescent lamps have long been seen as a source of energy efficient lighting, but they pose a threat to the environment and human health as a result of their mercury content. Besides being greener in nature, LED light bulbs are devoid of mercury, making them the preferred alternative to fluorescent lamps when it comes to energy efficient lighting.
  • With LED Lights, Automakers Reveal All the Road We Cannot See – New York Times: Thanks to LEDs, automotive lighting is undergoing a quiet revolution that is leading to new vehicle designs and providing enhanced nighttime safety. By combining LED lamps with cameras, a vehicle’s headlights can continuously alter their light patterns to exactly fit road conditions.
  • Green Focused People Power LEDs – The Asian Age: India’s LED light industry is continuing to grow thanks to public awareness and government energy conservation initiatives. According to recent data from the Electric Lamp and Component Manufacturers Association of India, LED lights are likely to account for about 60 percent of the total lighting industry by 2020.
  • Implications for LEDs of The Shift to Large-Diameter Sapphire Wafers – Semiconductor Today (Pgs. 68-71): Rubicon Technology’s senior VP of operations, Faisal Nabulsi, explains the changes in the sapphire wafer market over the past two years, and how large diameter and patterned sapphire substrates are impacting LED manufacturing.

Sapphire Industry Watch – May 1

  • 3D-printable AstroGro System To Foster Astronaut’s Green Thumbs – Gizmag: As manned missions beyond Earth’s orbit become closer to a reality, one of the main challenges is feeding the crew without the possibility of resupply from home. Looking to solve the problem, AstroGro designed a 3D-printed device for growing food. 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. If natural light is lacking, the LED lights provide supplemental light at the desired frequency.
  • New LED Lights Could Play Huge Role In Ending Malaria – The Huffington Post: A recent study from researches at the University of Southern California and University of California, Los Angeles, found that mosquitoes were significantly less attracted to customized LED lighting than light transmitted by compact fluorescents. By reducing insect attraction to artificial light, LED’s can help reduce the amount of mosquito’s present in homes, thus lowering the chances for the spread of malaria.
  • Apple Watch Scratch Resistance: Ion-X vs. Sapphire Glass – Slash Gear: Consumer Reports recently tested the durability and scratch resistance of the Apple Watch Sport and the higher-end Apple Watch. Based on the scratch tests conducted, the higher-end Apple Watch – which is outfitted with a sapphire glass faceplate – was able to withstand more of a beating than the Ion-X glass equipped Apple Watch Sport.
  • Displays You Wear – Photonics Spectra: The augmented reality and wearable device industries are facing many challenges, specifically in the form of consumer devices. With the development of a wearable device, such as a watch, comes the need for a stronger screen that isn’t bulky or strange looking. Solutions to these issues are becoming easier due to innovations in protective covers, such as man made sapphire. Sapphire is more expensive than glass, but its greater scratch resistance, strength and durability allow products to be thinner, which can be a plus in wearables.

Sapphire Carves Out a Corner of the Smart Watch Market

With the much anticipated release of the Apple Watch, the smart watch industry – and with it the sapphire industry – are back in the national spotlight.

Photo Credit: Business Insider

Photo Credit: Business Insider

Smart watches such as the Apple Watch are not only shaking up the wearables industry, but tipping us over the edge into a wearables revolution, predicted to be as transformative as smartphones and tablets.  With each new release, sapphire continues to establish a clear role in the future of wearable technology.

So what has led sapphire to be the go-to screen choice for smart watches?

As the second hardest substance on Earth behind diamond, it is unsurprising so many smart watch manufacturers are going with sapphire for their high-end time pieces. Utilized by traditional luxury watchmakers for decades, a sapphire faceplate is hard, extremely rugged and scratch resistant – excellent qualities to have when a device is situated in a vulnerable position, such as your wrist.

In fact, in an effort to prove just how indestructible a sapphire display is, Apple fan site iPhonefixed recently made a video of a purported Apple Watch sapphire display enduring excessive abuse, including aggressive rubbing against a stone wall and a power drill. In the end, the Apple Watch display is shown 100 percent intact, surviving without a single scuff or scratch.

But Apple is not the first or only manufacturer to feature sapphire on its smart watches. At Mobile World Congress 2015, Huawei shook up the wearable world by announcing the Huawei Watch. Designed with a more classical look in mind than the Apple Watch, the smart watch’s stainless steel build and sapphire crystal face make it look and feel more like a traditional timepiece.

Sapphire Industry Watch – April 24

  • UK’s ‘first’ aquaponic farm gets green light – Fresh Produce Journal: A London warehouse has been converted into a large-scale aquaponic farm that will use aquaculture and hydroponic technologies to grow enough salads and herbs for 200,000 bags of salad and approximately 4,000kg of fish per year.  Featuring specialized horticulture LED lighting, the farm is described as the first of its kind in the UK and is expected to produce its first harvest in September.
  • Rubicon Technology to showcase largest sapphire window ever produced at SPIE DSS – Market Watch: Rubicon Technology showcased the largest sapphire window ever produced at the SPIE DSS 2015 exhibition from April 20-24. Measuring in at 17 inches wide by 25 inches long and 1 inch thick, the sapphire window perfectly combines the durability and optical clarity necessary for use in defense applications.
  • Gov. Baker recognize Earth day with new LED program – 7News Boston: Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker celebrated Earth Day by announcing the state will be working to replace more than 5,000 outdoor lights with LEDs in an effort to reduce energy consumption and cost. The governor hopes this conversion will help Massachusetts become a national leader in the LED light movement.
  • Adaptalux uses octopus-like LED arms to illuminate your photos – Slash Gear: Adaptalux, a miniature portable lighting studio for videographers and macro photographers, uses magnetically-connected “arms” with LED lights on the end to illuminate subjects without overpowering them. The device can use a variety of lights and diffusers to ensure perfect lighting, along with controls to adjust beam angle and direction.

5 Non-LED Uses of Sapphire

Rubicon Technology may be best known as the worldwide market leader in sapphire for LEDs, but the company’s sapphire is being used in applications far beyond the lighting industry.

From semiconductor equipment components to camera lens covers, there are many intriguing uses for optical and non-wafer sapphire. Here’s a peek at five non-LED usages for Rubicon’s synthetic sapphire.

Rubicon1. Semiconductor Equipment  Components

More than 40 different semiconductor equipment components are made of sapphire. Due to its ability to withstand very high temperatures, extreme environment processing and harsh chemicals like fluorine plasma and many acids, sapphire is ideal for equipment such as plasma tubes, heater plates, lift pins and chamber windows.

2. Medical Component

Sapphire products are used in a variety of medical applications, including dental braces, surgical blades, laser delivery windows, arthroscopy lenses and skull pins. When compared with traditional metal alternatives, medical sapphire components provide advantages of optical transmission, transparency for both aesthetic and performance improvements, high durability and precision, and also can be utilized for procedures requiring active imaging as sapphire does not impact imaging processes like metal.

3. Infrared (IR) Windows

Sapphire windows of optical quality are already being used for military sensing applications on aircrafts and missiles. In fact, sapphire IR windows are now beginning to be used on private, commercial and cargo aircraft to assist with landing in inclement weather.

4. Wafer Carriers

Sapphire is so durable that it is actually used to support other brittle wafers that are being processed, such as gallium arsenide and silicon carbide. These brittle wafers are mounted to sapphire so they do not break or get damaged during transit.

5. Durable Lenses and Windows

One of the largest optical applications for sapphire is in the form of lenses and windows. Due to its hardness and wide range of transmission from UV to Visible to IR wavelengths, sapphire lenses and windows are ideal for use in applications where there is a possibility of impact, scratching, high temperatures, chemical interaction or other harsh conditions. These lenses and windows are used in a wide variety of applications, such as camera lenses, military rifle scopes and as windows for sensors and laser transmission.

We are just scratching the surface when it comes to optical and non-wafer uses for sapphire. As research continues and new applications are discovered, you will see sapphire included in different types of products. Who knows, you may soon be seeing sapphire used for the armored windshields of military vehicles or even in hip replacements!

Sapphire Industry Watch – April 17

  • Video: The Apple Watch’s sapphire display survives an insane power drill test – BGR: In an effort to prove just how indestructible the sapphire display of the Apple Watch is, iPhonefixed made a video of a purported Apple Watch sapphire display enduring aggressive rubbing against a stone wall and a power drill, amongst other abusive tests. In the end, the Apple Watch display is shown 100 percent intact, surviving without a single scuff or scratch.
  • Check out the light emerging from these Dublin landmarks – A team of professors at Trinity College Dublin have estimated that over 2.2. million units of electricity are wasted per year across Ireland in illuminating areas such as public parks and gardens. According to the Dublin City Council, the biggest source of light pollution comes from low pressure sodium light bulbs. To remedy the situation, there is a proposal to replace all of the low pressure sodium lights with LED lights over the next few years.
  • US LED lighting market to reach $5.2bn in 2015, driven by declining LED prices and government initiatives – Semiconductor Today: Continued innovation over the last decade has led to the overall growth of LEDs in the general lighting market. According to TechSci Research, due to continuously declining LED prices, US government initiatives and increasing consumer inclination towards the adoption of green technologies, the US LED lighting market could grow to $5.2bn in 2015.
  • Oklahoma City Hall park to get makeover – The Oklahoman: The park surrounding Oklahoma City Hall is set to undergo a much needed makeover. The main feature of the park, the fountain, which dates back to the opening of City Hall in 1937, will be rebuilt with new nozzles, mechanical systems and LED lighting.

Sapphire Hips

More than 7 million people in the United States alone are currently living with knee or hip replacements, 2.5 million of which have had total hip replacement (THR) surgeries, according to Mayo Clinic researchers.

While current metal-on-metal and ceramic endoprotheses have had a dramatic effect on mobilizing this fairly large segment of the population, these replacements must be replaced again after 15 to 30 years and have even been known to fail in just a few years.

Sapphire is breaking ground in the medical industry after having been successfully implanted into the hips of five patients.

Of this small experimental group, none have reportedly shown any complications since the implants were put in five years ago. Having long been considered an attractive material for artificial joint replacements, the success of these clinical trials proves sapphire has a promising future for use inside the human body.

One of the most important issues in the modern total hip arthroplasty (THA) is the bearing surface. Amongst other characteristics, extensive research has shown that durability and bio-inertness are necessary traits of materials used in hip replacements. The Ukrainian Academy of Medical Sciences, Kharkov, has been studying sapphire friction pairs, which prove to fit the bill.

Made from highly purified materials with crystals grown at 2,100℃ in a vacuum, sapphire friction pairs are aluminum oxides in the purest form have no porosity or grain boundaries. Under such conditions, additional purification of the material takes place and the content of the main substance (aluminum oxide) achieved is 99.99%.

These extremely pure sapphire friction pairs hold the following physical advantages over metal and ceramic endoprostheses:

  • Hardness
  • Durability
  • Biochemical inertness
  • Biocompatibility
  • Low friction coefficient
  • Extraordinarily high wear capacity
  • Availability at a low cost
  • Optical transparency

These characteristics make sapphire not only suitable for artificial bone replacements, but also other external medical applications, such as implants and braces. As clinical trials of the material continue, it is clear we are just scratching the surface of sapphire medical applications.

Sapphire Industry Watch – April 10

  • Monuments Around The Globe Are Turning Blue For Autism Awareness – BuzzFeed: In an effort to increase autism awareness, 13,000 buildings across the globe shined bright blue on the evening of April 1. An annual tradition since 2008, major world landmarks, such as the Empire State Building and its LED Lighting System, lit up blue in honor of World Autism Awareness Day.
  • Taiwan Expanding Into Indoor LED-lit, Pesticide-free Farms – Lancaster Online: A new generation of Taiwanese farmers is growing vegetables indoors under bright LED lights in climate-controlled “grow rooms”. High-tech indoor farms are now yielding more crops per area than soil and because of the intensity of lights and nutrients provided in the water, plants grown under LED lights grow twice as fast.
  • Hotels Light Up to Influence Human Behavior – Sourceable: Amongst furnishings and art, lighting is emerging as the most important factor that can evoke emotion and create ambiance for hotel guests. A case study by electrical firm Leviton, demonstrated how LED lamps are able to transform lobby areas with colors and aesthetics that couldn’t be achieved with standard incandescent lighting.
  • LA Connects, Controls its LED Street Lights – Energy Manager Today: The Los Angeles Bureau of Street Lighting has implemented a new management system that allows it to remotely control the city’s LED street lights, along with monitor power usage. Made up of about 7,500 centerline miles of LED street lights, LA’s entire system can be managed remotely through any web browser, eliminating on-site commissioning.