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Exploring greener lighting options

Posted: 14 Nov 2011 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:compact fluorescent lamp? carbon emissions? lighting industry?

It is widely recognized that incandescent lighting can't hold a candle to compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) technology when it comes to energy efficiency. The increasing emphasis on more efficient energy conservation measures around the world has driven the global demand for CFLs to a new apex. According to a USAID Asia report in 2007, plans to phase out incandescent lightings might cause CFL production to increase to as many as 10 billion units annually [1]. In addition, USAID Asia has also predicted that if Asian countries replace 85 percent of the substandard CFLs with higher quality ones, it could result in at least a 10 million ton reduction on carbon emissions within eight years [2].

Evidently, CFLs still hold much untapped potential in conserving energy in the world's lighting scene; therefore, there is growing pressure on CFL technology to better support the green lighting revolution.

Governments are already moving in the direction of requiring more efficient lighting sources. In the U.S., an initiative is underway to define a "SuperCFL Lamp" that exceeds current industry performance in a number of categories, including efficacy, lifetime, and control characteristics such as dimming.

The European Union is already setting tougher quality requirements for CFLs. These new EU performance standards can be implemented with IC control. Phase 1 of the new regulations has been in place since September 2009. The next step up is scheduled for September 2013. Converting a 4 billion-units-per-year industry to meet the upcoming regulation is a major challenge. The countdown to 2013 has prompted many CFL vendors to choose an IC solution as an easy path toward reaching or even exceeding the quality and performance standards.

In 2008, some of world's largest lighting manufacturers and lighting associations signed an agreement entitled the Manila Compact, and this event was the stakeholder's first public response to address a well-embedded problem that could have stunted the growth of CFL usage in Asia. The agreement also marks the signatories' commitment in developing a system that will encourage better CFL performance and quality, and eventually eliminating the usage of inferior CFLs in Asia.

Today however, to a large degree, CFLs fall short of their promise〞and the innate capabilities of the technology〞because reliability issues diminish their useful life.

CFLs have a current range of 60-70 lumens per Watt (Lm/W) efficacy rating. Best-in-class lamps have reliability ratings that can extend lifetimes to up to 15,000 hours. But reliability is more often mediocre with many lamps failing in a few months, far short of the 4000 to 6000 hour lifetime that is often considered standard quality.

Today's average CFL is controlled by a collection of discrete components wired together and crammed in the bulky base that consumers often find unwieldy and inconvenient. Meanwhile, consumers must often contend with poor quality, experience far shorter life than claimed, and endure long startup times.

Green technology IC
But there is a solution: Semiconductor leaders have incorporated green-IC technology into CFL designs, resulting in high performance and durable lighting solutions. Integrating a dozen discrete components into a single integrated circuit (IC) reduces the wires, all while achieving a breakthrough in reliability. The CFL also becomes approximately 10% more efficient compared to average electronics based on discrete components. Improved quality also translates into longer lifetime 每 as much as 15,000 hours 每 and extended on/off switching cycles.

Another important advantage is that adding an IC opens the possibility for controlling the CFL so that it can be dimmed using standard wall plug dimmers. This feature enables CFL lamps to behave like incandescent lamps in terms of fast startup and deep dimming. Green innovations, such as NXP Semiconductors' GreenChip, are touted to enable dimming performance below the 5% threshold: CFL lamps that behave almost like incandescent lamps. Since CFL lifetime is limited by the number of switching cycles, better control also makes it possible to extend the CFL's useful life.

Semiconductor industries have a wide range of high-performance CFL lighting solutions that will lead to substantially higher performing CFLs. Utilizing green innovations, new levels of efficient power management can be accomplished and simplification of lamp design and assembly process can be achieved . In addition, established semiconductor manufacturers possess the capacity to produce tens of millions of chips every day, answering the CFL lighting market's needs and facilitating the steady growth of CFL usage in Asia and around the world.

The LED revolution
Although CFL technology leads the lighting front of the green energy environment, its overall efficacy potential makes it almost certain that it cannot dominate the market indefinitely.

From an energy efficiency perspective, comparisons favor LED. With literally billions of lamps being lit all over the world on a daily basis, small differences can quickly add up to gigawatts. All lamp technologies are affected by manufacturing processes and as a result an efficacy range 每 which can be quite wide 每 is provided for each:

???CFL: 60〞70 Lumens per Watt (Lm/W)
???LED: 5〞130 Lm/W
???Metal halide: 65〞100 Lm/W

The bright story of LED technology is told only in part by its outstanding and rapid evolution toward higher and higher efficacy ratings. For years it struggled to break past the 10% efficacy mark and, as a result, never made much of a dent in CFL dominance. Over the past few years, however, LED lamps have been increasing their efficacy steadily year after year. In 1995 LED efficacy was 20 Lm/W; in 2000, 55 Lm/W; in 2005 120 Lm/W; and in 2010 160 Lm/W. Some LEDs in production today are achieving 40 Lm/W and others still in the research phase reach the high end of the assigned range. Their useful life is rated at 40,000 hours and the best-in-class LEDs of today can be integrated into a lamp that generates 400 lumens.

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