Strategies in Light: Day 1, LED Lighting Report, New Start-ups

February 8, 2012 — The 2012 Strategies in Light conference kicked off today at the Santa Clara Convention Center with a series of five workshops, two tutorials and one all-day investor forum. The investor forum is where I chose to spend my day, as it provided the opportunity for solid state lighting and related startups to talk about their technologies, products and implicitly the opportunities they provide for investment. The forum was well populated by actual investors looking for opportunities to trade-in their Maseratis for something a bit more upscale.

Vrinda Bhandarkar at Strategies Unlimited presented a global market review for LED lighting. Not surprisingly, the largest available market is China, but the greatest number of individual LED replacement lights sold last year was in Japan, their high price notwithstanding. The market for luminaries is expected to be $20B by 2016 with a CAGR of 19%. Over the same period replacement lights will grow to $3B with a CAGR of 23%. The LED lighting cost index has the potential to drop from 100 today to 20 by 2015, but that will require achievement of efficiencies across the entire component set.

HelioDel is a spin out of CEA-LETI that claims a 5x cost reduction breakthrough by using grown GaN nanowires in place of planar device structures. This enables the generation of a range of controlled colors on a single chip, with the prospect of eventually eliminating the need for phosphors altogether.

Just as CFL technology was met with consumer resistance due to the its color, LED lighting is subject to consumer criticism due to flickering associated with the incoming alternating current. In an environment that is illuminated totally by LEDs, there is a segment of the population that reacts adversely with symptoms ranging from headache and eyestrain to epileptic seizures. Privately-held iWatt Inc. is a four year old company that manufactures digital control LED power supplies that are already implemented worldwide to improve the human factors associated with LED lighting.

Xicato has taken the novel approach of separating the photon generation from the color tuning by using commodity LEDs with something called Corrected Cold Phosphor Technology™. The color temperature of the lighting unit is determined by placing the phosphors in a translucent cover disk that is spatially separated from the LED devices. Furthermore, the disk is integrated into the cooling system, so that its color remains constant over a lifetime of several years and is highly uniform from one device to the next.

CoolEdge Lighting is a stealth startup spun out from the University of Illinois that is commercializing an all-plastic flexible “light engine” that does not require heat sinks or wire bonding. Small commodity LEDs are used from four foundries. General Manager Wade Sheen assured the audience that development of the product is based entirely on good engineering; magic was not invoked.

The conference continues for the next two days with a technical conference and supplier exhibition. Read Fury’s reports from Days 2 and 3:

Michael A. Fury, Ph.D., is director & senior technology analyst, Techcet Group in North Plains, OR.

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