By determining simple guidelines, researchers at UC Santa Barbara’s Solid State Lighting and Energy Center (SSLEC) have made it possible to optimize phosphors –– a key component in white LED lighting –– allowing for brighter, more efficient lights.
“These guidelines should permit the discovery of new and improved phosphors in a rational rather than trial-and-error manner,” said Ram Seshadri, a professor in the university’s Department of Materials as well as in its Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, of the breakthrough contribution to solid-state lighting research.
This breakthrough puts efforts for high-efficiency, high-brightness, solid-state lighting on a fast track. Lower-efficiency incandescent and fluorescent bulbs –– which use relatively more energy to produce light –– could become antiquated fixtures of the past.
“Our target is to get to 90 percent efficiency, or 300 lumens per watt,” said DenBaars, who also is a professor of electrical and computer engineering and co-director of the SSLEC. Current incandescent light bulbs, by comparison, are at roughly 5 percent efficiency, and fluorescent lamps are a little more efficient at about 20 percent.
“We have already demonstrated up to 60 percent efficiency in lab demos,” DenBaars said.
ED (light-emitting diode) lighting has been a major topic of research due to the many benefits it offers over traditional incandescent or fluorescent lighting. LEDs use less energy, emit less heat, last longer and are less hazardous to the environment than traditional lighting. Already utilized in devices such as street lighting and televisions, LED technology is becoming more popular as it becomes more versatile and brighter.
According to Seshadri, all of the recent advances in solid-state lighting have come from devices based on gallium nitride LEDs, a technology that is largely credited to UCSB materials professor Shuji Nakamura, who invented the first high-brightness blue LED. In solid-state white lighting technology, phosphors are applied to the LED chip in such a way that the photons from the blue gallium nitride LED pass through the phosphor, which converts and mixes the blue light into the green-yellow-orange range of light. When combined evenly with the blue, the green-yellow-orange light yields white light.