Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Death of a Commodity

Lighting is definitely one of the most interesting areas of the electronics industry at the moment. After hardly any major changes in the near century and a half since Swan/Edison/A N Other first commercialised the concept, the humble light bulb now seems doomed unless it can be made efficient enough to compete with other lighting technologies.

While there are efforts to make light bulbs more efficient, other technologies are trying hard to replace them. The most promising of these is LED technology which is now in a position to fill many of the roles that are traditionally filled by incandescent lighting.

Manufacturers such as Cree and Lumileds are battling to have the top performing power LED, with regular announcements claiming either the best performance, or that LEDs have proven themselves for another new application, dental lighting and street lighting being the latest according to Lumileds.
However, LEDs may not have everything their own way, other technologies may challenge their current superiority. The light bulb could make a resurgence using a new coating which reflects back the IR energy and allows the filament to burn hotter and more efficiently.

Another interesting technology on the horizon is OLED lighting. This type of lighting may take a few years to hit the mainstream market, but looks a good bet for domestic and commercial lighting. OLED has many advantages; a more natural colour than LEDs, it is attractive, very efficient and should be very cheap to produce when some problems are ironed out.

CFL lighting also deserves a mention, but it suffers many of the same drawbacks of incandescent lighting only to a lesser extent, and also contains mercury, which can make disposal after use complex.

I will take a look more thoroughly at these technologies in future blogs and hopefully have a chance to speak to some of the leading companies in the field for a first hand perspective.