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

LED Lighting Adoption – Lessons Learned

Incandescent lighting ruled the world for more than a century, but times have changed as the world looks to energy efficient alternatives to the incandescent bulb. In the 1970s, compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) came along as the new alternative light source. Market penetration for CFL bulbs never rose above 1% of all units in the first 20 years following market introduction.

In the US, the US Department of Energy joined together with retailers and the lighting manufacturers to encourage consumer adoption of energy-efficient lighting including LEDs and CFLs. There has been careful consideration not to repeat the mistakes experienced with CFLs that led to that very slow adoption rate.

We’ve spoken a lot about the EISA phase-out of incandescent bulbs in Clearlysapphire.com. US legislators imposed strict energy efficient guidelines impacting incandescent light bulbs in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. In a rolling phase-out through 2014, manufacturers stopped making 100-W, 75-W, 60-W and 40-W incandescent light bulbs. But that legislation is only part of today’s story.

Before the phase-out legislation, The Energy Policy Act of 2005 established the Next Generation Lighting Initiative, directing the DOE to “support research, development, demonstration, and commercial application activities related to advanced solid‐state lighting technologies based on white light-emitting diodes.” This legislation was an important part in establishing the DOE’s leadership in the adoption of solid state lighting (SSL).

The US Department of Energy reviewed the CFL experience and developed a strategy for leading the industry and supporting their activities for SSL.  The DOE analyzed both CFL adoption and early SSL experiences since they’ve launched to determine a strategy for the initiative. You can find links to the reports below in Further Reading.

Some of the lessons learned were quite reasonable. First, coordination and collaboration between government and industry should take place at a national level. Secondly, they needed to establish standards and product testing for minimum performance and back-up of long-life claims with standard-based projections and/or guarantees.  Thirdly, they needed to introduce new lighting technology in applications where the benefits were clearly established before moving on to others. They also found they needed to respond to the market and resolve problems and issues quickly. Finally, they needed to know and acknowledge technology limitations, determine and address compatibility issues with conventional lighting, deal with technology failures aggressively, and not launch a new product until performance issues were ironed out.

The parties in the initiative analyzed LED technology itself and possible bumps in the road to mitigate for consumers. They knew that consumers would have to get used to new language of LEDs. For example, the different way of communicating light brightness in lumens rather than traditional watts might cause confusion. The DOE worked with manufacturers proactively to communicate the new language of LEDs through the introduction of new package labeling, LED Lighting Facts program. They also established CALiPER program, to test a wide array of new LED lighting products for the public interest using industry-approved metrics. With a myriad of new LED light bulb offerings, consumers can find LED light bulbs that are qualified using 20 standards and procedures by the familiar Energy Star program. These proactive efforts were designed to smooth the transition and advance consumer adoption.

How successful have these government and industry efforts been?

There has been a very big change in the installed base of light bulbs between 2010 and 2012.  This is mainly due to the government mandated light bulb phase-out. According to Navigant Research and the DOE, the installed base of incandescent A-type lamps (traditional light bulb shape) decreased from 65 percent to 55 percent, while CFLs increased from 34 percent in 2010 to 43 percent in 2012.  LED installations in A-type lamps remained at less than 1 percent in 2012.

But taking note of lessons learned, it was interesting to see increased adoption in applications where LEDs have clear benefits — directional lighting such as lighting used in recessed lighting. According to the DOE and Navigant, installations of directional LED lamps went from 0.1 million in 2009 to 11.4 million in 2012, with an estimated 4.6% of all directional sockets in 2012 using LEDs.

Adoption is looking up for other lighting applications. Analysts expect LED-based lighting to grow, and fast. According to research firm IHS, 2014 will be a big year for LED lamps, accounting for 32% of the entire global lamp revenue.

The biggest barrier to consumer adoption in traditional A-type lighting so far is price, but the prices are coming down to more palatable levels for consumers. You can read more about the adoption of LED-based general lighting and pricing in these previous posts, Tipping Point 2: Finally, A Sub $10 LED Light Bulb and Tipping Point: Earth Day, 100W Light Bulb Reprieve and Alexander Hamilton.

For Further Reading

DOE, Solid-State Lighting: Early Lessons Learned on the Way to Market, http://apps1.eere.energy.gov/buildings/publications/pdfs/ssl/ssl_lessons-learned_2014.pdf

DOE, Compact Fluorescent Lighting in America: Lessons Learned on the Way to Market, http://apps1.eere.energy.gov/buildings/publications/pdfs/ssl/cfl_lessons_learned_web.pdf

Navigant Research for DOE, Adoption of Light-Emitting Diodes in Common Lighting Applications, http://apps1.eere.energy.gov/buildings/publications/pdfs/ssl/led-adoption-report_2013.pdf

Consulting-Specifying Engineer, Report: Lighting manufacturing leaders to shift, http://www.csemag.com/single-article/report-lighting-manufacturing-leaders-to-shift/7932342ed0c1f2c636596e85aa29d99f.html

 

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

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

Larger Wafers, Larger Yield – The Numbers Behind Large Diameter Sapphire Wafers and Yield

rubicon-waferyield-540x720-3Today, more than 80% of LEDs are based on sapphire substrates. For years, two-inch and four-inch diameter sapphire wafers have been the standard for LED production.  Now, LED chip manufacturers are looking to migrate to six-inch diameter wafers to increase the yield or the amount of LED chips they can make out of each wafer.  This is important as new market opportunities like LED-based general lighting take off, demanding more sapphire.

Rubicon put together an infographic, Larger Wafer, Larger Yield, about the yield from large diameter wafers. You can see it here on Rubicon’s new web site:  http://www.rubicontechnology.com/sites/default/files/Rubicon_WaferYield_v3.pdf

Rubicon Technology’s CEO Raja Parvez talked about the benefits of moving to large diameter sapphire wafers in an article, Vertical Integration Streamlines Sapphire Production, in Compound Semiconductor earlier this year.

According to Parvez, LED chip manufacturers look to large diameter sapphire wafers to cut costs.  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.  The outer curvature of the 6 inch wafer is less, enabling greater use of the surface area than a 2 inch wafer resulting in less edge loss. In addition, large wafers provide post-MOCVD efficiencies.  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 compared with two-inch wafers.  These efficiency gains become very compelling when LED chip production ramps up in large volumes to support a high growth market like general lighting.

For Further Reading

Compound Semiconductor, Vertical Integration Streamlines Sapphire Production http://www.compoundsemiconductor.net/csc/features-details.php?cat=features&id=19736275&key=rubicon%20technology&type=

Top 9 Things You Didn’t Know about LEDs

Philips Luxeon LED

Philips Luxeon LED

Recently, the Department of Energy published a list of the Top 8 Things You Didn’t Know about LEDs. We’d like to share the list, and add one more for our Clearlysapphire blog post this week.

9.  Sapphire is the base material for more than 80% of LEDs, just like silicon is the base material for computer chips.

8. A light-emitting diode, or LED, is a type of solid-state lighting that uses a semiconductor to convert electricity into light. Today’s LED bulbs can be six-seven times more energy efficient than conventional incandescent lights and cut energy use by more than 80 percent.

7. Good-quality LED bulbs can have a useful life of 25,000 hours or more — meaning they can last more than 25 times longer than traditional light bulbs. That is a life of more than three years if run 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

6. Unlike incandescent bulbs — which release 90 percent of their energy as heat — LEDs use energy far more efficiently with little wasted heat.

5. From traffic lights and vehicle brake lights to TVs and display cases, LEDs are used in a wide range of applications because of their unique characteristics, which include compact size, ease of maintenance, resistance to breakage, and the ability to focus the light in a single direction instead of having it go every which way.

4. LEDs contain no mercury, and a recent Energy Department study determined that LEDs have a much smaller environmental impact than incandescent bulbs. They also have an edge over compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) that’s expected to grow over the next few years as LED technology continues its steady improvement.

3. Since the Energy Department started funding solid-state lighting R&D in 2000, these projects have received 58 patents. Some of the most successful projects include developing new ways to use materials, extract more light, and solve the underlying technical challenges. Most recently, the Energy Department announced five new projects that will focus on cutting costs by improving manufacturing equipment and processes.

2. The first visible-spectrum LED was invented by Nick Holonyak, Jr., while working for GE in 1962. Since then, the technology has rapidly advanced and costs have dropped tremendously, making LEDs a viable lighting solution. Between 2011 and 2012, global sales of LED replacement bulbs increased by 22 percent while the cost of a 60-watt equivalent LED bulb fell by nearly 40 percent. By 2030, it’s estimated that LEDs will account for 75 percent of all lighting sales.

1. In 2012, about 49 million LEDs were installed in the U.S. — saving about $675 million in annual energy costs. Switching entirely to LED lights over the next two decades could save the U.S. $250 billion in energy costs, reduce electricity consumption for lighting by nearly 50 percent and avoid 1,800 million metric tons of carbon emissions.

For Further Reading

Department of Energy, Top 8 Things You Didn’t Know about LEDs, http://energy.gov/articles/top-8-things-you-didn-t-know-about-leds

Lightfair 2013 – Observations about LEDs from Philadelphia

The LFI Innovation Award went to Philips BoldPlay  for Most Innovative Product of the Year

The Lightfair International trade show and conference was recently held in Philadelphia.  According to the organizers, LIGHTFAIR International (LFI) is the world’s largest annual commercial and architectural lighting trade show and conference.  Sponsored by the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) and the International Association of Lighting Designers (IALD), the 2012 show had more than 24,000 registered attendees from 73 countries. It is clearly a big deal in the lighting industry.

Here’s a round-up of some analysis of LEDs at the show and a quick look at industry awards from LFI.

The engineers from Groom Energy made their annual trek to Lightfair and included an analysis of their trek in their blog.  This year, they noticed a difference in the quality of light from LEDs on display.  The light the LEDs on display put off was the more familiar, warmer light similar to the light put out by an incandescent. LEDs also got smarter with lighting controls evolved from being add-ons to being embedded. Jon Guerster, the author of the blog, speculates that California’s Title 24 that requires lighting controls may be a driver for all of the new smart lighting controls.  Finally, the Groom Energy team found that LED fixtures no longer looked distinct like LED fixtures, but sported the familiar look of incandescent, HID and fluorescent fixtures from the past. Now, you can’t tell that there are LEDs inside.

The LED analyst team from IMS Research traveled from London to Philadelphia and posted an analysis about the show on their LED blog.  IMS Analyst Jamie Fox noted that the show no longer featured that “Wow” moment.  He said this is due to the relative maturity of LED lighting.  The maturity and evolution of the LED market also led to two key observations from IMS.

According to Fox, there’s no clear winning sector in the American LEDs general lighting market.  Fox and his colleagues were told by LED manufacturers that residential, retail, outdoor, hospitality and others all have a “significant” part of the pie but none of them dominates. This was supported by IMS observations of the product mix on the show floor.  As for LED manufacturers, Fox noted that the “big three” — Nichia, Cree and Lumileds — are leaders in the American LED market and while global LED players like Samsung, Seoul Semiconductor, Osram and others play a role in the US, the “big three” are consistently mentioned as clear leaders in the market.

Finally, Fox noted that industry price decreases versus quality was an issue for many at the show.  According to Fox, “there is a significant worry though, both from my own observations of product, and from show floor conversations, that it is becoming too much of a lowest price fight at the moment, and not enough advancement on quality.”  Fox says low price may not ensure that a customer will be happy with the light quality from an LED bulb that doesn’t compare well to an incandescent bulb.

The LFI Innovation Awards program honored lighting vendors for innovation and design. Here are a few of the top winners:

  • PHILIPS (BoldPlay): Most Innovative Product of the Year—the program’s highest award, recognizing the most innovative new product
  • COOLEDGE LIGHTING (Light Sheet): Design Excellence Award—recognizing outstanding achievement in design
  • DOW CORNING CORPORATION (Dow Corning® Brand Moldable Silicones): Technical Innovation Award—recognizing the most forward-thinking advancement in lighting technology
  • PHILIPS (hue personal wireless lighting): Judges’ Citation Award—special recognition of an innovative product at the judges’ discretion

For Further Reading

Groom Energy, LightFair 2013: LED Lighting Is Warm, Smart and Looks Like What You Know, http://blog.groomenergy.com/2013/04/lightfair-2013-led-lighting-is-warm-smart-and-looks-like-what-you-know/

IMS RESEARCH, LED Blog, LEDs Continue to Evolve At LIGHTFAIR, http://www.ledmarketresearch.com/blog/leds_continue_to_evolve_at_lightfair

Tipping Point 2: Finally, A Sub $10 LED Light Bulb

Cree’s new sub-$10, 40-watt equivalent LED light bulb

This past week, Cree introduced a brand new 40W LED light bulb that will be available at Home Depot for less than $10. The $10 mark is very important.  As we mentioned in the blog before, the $10 mark is the tipping point where many analysts and vendors believe mass adoption will occur.  According to analysts at IMS, “It’s not just the psychological impact (i.e. $9.99 vs. $10.00); it also just happens that this is around the point where the payback arguments make sense.”

Cree agrees. “The Cree LED light bulb was designed to offer consumers a no-compromise lighting experience at a compelling price,” said Chuck Swoboda, Cree chairman and CEO.  “Over the last couple of years we recognized that the consumer is instrumental in the adoption of LED lighting, but we needed to give them a reason to switch. We believe this breakthrough LED bulb will, for the first time, give consumers a reason to upgrade the billions of energy-wasting light bulbs.”

According to Cree, Cree LED bulbs save 84 percent of energy compared to traditional incandescent light bulbs.  They have calculated that consumers can save $61 per year on electric bills by replacing incandescent bulbs with Cree LED bulbs in a home’s five most frequently used light fixtures. Their calculations are based on Cree LED bulb 60W replacements at 9.5 watt, $0.11 per kilowatt-hour, 25,000 hour lifetime and average usage of 6 hours per day.

In addition to the new $10 LED light bulb, Cree will have two other light bulbs available exclusively at The Home Depot. Here are details about all three:

  • $9.97, a “warm white” 40-watt equivalent, with 450 lumens of light for 6W of electricity
  • $12.97, a “warm white” 60-watt equivalent, providing 800 lumens of light for 9.5W of electricity
  • $13.97, a “day light” 60-watt equivalent, with 800 lumens of light at a cost of 9W of electricity

Consumer Reports announced that they’ll be putting Cree’s LED light bulbs through the test. We’ll keep you posted on their testing in Clearlysapphire.com.

Further Reading

Cree, Cree Introduces The Biggest Thing Since the Light Bulb™, http://www.cree.com/news-and-events/cree-news/press-releases/2013/march/bulbs

Consumer Reports, LED prices drop as competition heats up, http://news.consumerreports.org/home/2013/03/led-prices-drop-as-competition-suddenly-heats-up.html

MIT Technology Review, Once-Pricey LED Bulbs to Dip Under $10, http://www.technologyreview.com/view/512236/once-pricey-led-bulbs-to-dip-under-10/

The Verge, Cree’s $13 LED light bulb is the best yet, looks and feels incandescent (hands-on), http://www.theverge.com/2013/3/5/4068174/cree-10-dollar-led-light-bulb-incandescent

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

IMS Research, DOES LED LIGHTING HAVE A TIPPING POINT?, http://www.ledmarketresearch.com/blog/Does_LED_Lighting_Have_A_Tipping_Point_270

LED Light Bulbs Grow in Popularity

Philips 12.5W LED A19 bulb on sale on Homedepot.com for $22.97 US.

A big part of the market opportunity for sapphire is LED lighting.  When the LED lighting market grows, the demand for sapphire, one of the main building blocks for LED chips will increase too.  We’ve been tracking the LED lighting market and take a look at a recent report by Diane Cardwell in The New York Times, LEDs Emerge as a Popular ‘Green’ Lighting.

Cardwell examined the growth in popularity of LED lighting in the piece.  Cardwell notes that the energy-efficient replacement LED bulbs are popular with consumers despite being more expensive than traditional incandescent bulbs.  She also looked at the marketing success of LED lighting at retailers like Home Depot and technological improvements by manufacturers like Philips.

Cardwell reported that the growth of LED sales outpaced other lighting technologies in the residential market even though the market share still is small at 3 percent.  She attributes the growth to price decreases and the appeal of saving money on energy to consumers.

Brad Paulsen, from mega home retailer Home Depot, told Cardwell that he anticipates that LED technology will become the most popular lighting technology that is out there.  Home Depot has been selling LED light bulbs since 2009 according to information Bill Hamilton from Home Depot shared at a Department of Energy, 2012 Solid-State Lighting Market Introduction Workshop.  The retailer now sells 104 options online and in-store.  Consumers are seeing healthy price decreases.  For example, a Philips 12.5W LED A19 bulb (a 60W equivalent) decreased in price 37% to $24.97 between 2011 and 2012 at Home Depot and now sells on the Home Depot website for $22.97.

The Times article highlighted some interesting market statistics about LED lighting.  A-type LEDs, the most common bulb size that fits in home light sockets, will outsell incandescent bulbs in North America in 2014, according to market research firm IMS Research.  The firm also maintains that LEDs will become the most popular A-type technology by 2016 with North American shipments reaching almost 370 million, more than 10 times the roughly 33 million shipped last year.

Light bulb manufacturers are seeing LED lighting growth as well.  Cardwell noted that Philips, a major manufacturer of light bulbs in the US, saw LED light bulbs contribute to 24 percent of lighting sales in 2012. Overall LED-based sales grew by 51%, and now account for 24% of total lighting sales for Philips in Q3 2012. Philips took in over EUR 500 million, that’s around $650 million in US dollars, in LED-based sales for the third quarter.  That’s a lot of LEDs.

For Further Reading

Bill Hamilton, Home Depot presentation, Department of Energy, 2012 Solid-State Lighting Market Introduction Workshop, http://apps1.eere.energy.gov/buildings/publications/pdfs/ssl/hamilton_trends_pittsburgh2012.pdf

New York Times, LEDs Emerge as a Popular ‘Green’ Lighting, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/22/business/leds-emerge-as-a-popular-green-lighting.html?_r=0

The LED Revolution in 2013 – Advances in LED Light

NY Times Square New Year’s Ball 2013, http://timessquareball.net/new-years-eve-ball-history/

The BBC recently put together a video about the LED Lighting Revolution that was jam packed with lots of information about the latest advances in LED lighting for 2013.  It also brings great video of LED upgrades to the Times Square New Year’s Ball in New York and the new LED lighting at New York’s Empire State Building that you might not have seen yet.

The New Year’s Celebration at New York’s Times Square is known worldwide for the crystal ball that has been dropped at midnight since 1907.  The ball, made by Philips and Waterford, got a makeover in 2007 when they changed the light source from incandescent bulbs to LEDs. But each year the LED-based ball gets a little bit better. The BBC video details how Philips and Waterford joined together to ensure that the legendary sparkle of the ball wasn’t lost with LED’s directional light.  The ball designers used special reflectors and baffles (seen in the video) to make sure the light refracts correctly with the crystal.

The 2013 Ball features 2,688 Waterford Crystal triangles bolted to 672 LED modules attached to an aluminum frame.  The Ball is illuminated by 32,256 Philips Luxeon Rebel LEDs. Each LED module contains 48 Philips Luxeon Rebel LEDs – 12 red, 12 blue, 12 green and 12 white to a total of 8,064 of each color. The Ball is capable of creating a palette of more than 16 million colors.

Not only does the ball look better, but the new ball brought energy savings 90% with double brightness by going LED in 2007. One year later, improvements saved 30 percent more energy.  The improvements have been so great that they keep the ball lit all year, every day.

The LED retrofit of the Empire State Building (ESB) was completed earlier this year, but the people at the BBC show the retrofit developed by Philips Color Kinetics in detail.  The new programmable LED light system brings 16 million colors. The old lighting system for the ESB meant 9-10 men manually changing large colored gel disks in a process that took all day. Now, the managers can update the new color palette – which can be daily — at a touch of a button.

Recently, we detailed the new 3-Way SWITCH LED Light Bulb at CES. The BBC video details how some SWITCH bulbs are made with a new liquid cooling system.  While most LED bulbs are air cooled, the people at SWITCH have developed a special liquid cooled LED bulb.  SWITCH’s advanced LQD Cooling System™ divides the bulb into two parts where half the bulb is a glass globe filled with silicon-based liquid to act as a cooling element.  The LQD Cooling System also includes a patented driver that is both reliable and highly efficient. SWITCH claims that their bulbs offer up to 40% better thermal performance than air-cooled LED bulbs.

The BBC video ends with a look at how 2013 will be different for personal, customizable LED lighting that can be controlled by a tablet or smart phone. Using an onscreen color palate or personal photo on a tablet, users can change the light from the LED lamp.

For Further Viewing

BBC, The LED Lighting Revolution, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/click_online/9782116.stm