DOE makes nine additional SSL core-research funding awards

May 8, 2015
Awarding nearly 10 million research dollars for efficient lighting development, the US Department of Energy tabbed nine companies and research institutions to work on LEDs, OLEDs, SSL, and quantum dots.

Awarding nearly 10 million research dollars for efficient lighting development, the US Department of Energy tabbed nine companies and research institutions to work on LEDs, OLEDs, SSL, and quantum dots.

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has announced $8.2 million in additional funding in its solid-state lighting (SSL)-centric core-research, product-development, and US manufacturing programs. Cost-share contributions for the SSL research organizations involved will bring the total public/private research investment to more than $11.5 million. Projects vary from improvements in LEDs sources and new materials and manufacturing techniques for OLEDs to luminaire designs and applications in general lighting.

The DOE continues to spend public funds on SSL research, believing the technology that evolves from the program can truly impact the consumption of electricity. "Advances in solid-state lighting technology are critically important for moving the nation closer to a clean energy future, while keeping money in the pocketbooks of American families at the same time," said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. "These Department-funded projects will help tap the full energy-saving potential of solid-state lighting, and create jobs in related industries across the United States."

The announcements include Round 10 investments in core research that covers fundamental SSL science. The product development funding is focused on applying research to commercial SSL enabling technologies or end products, including materials, LEDs, and SSL products; and is also a Round 10 set of awards. The Round 6 awards in US manufacturing, meanwhile, are meant to reduce manufacturing costs to both make SSL products affordable for consumers and enable manufacturing operations in the US.

OLED awards

OLED technology continues to receive DOE dollars, although the technology continues to trail LED-based development in efficacy and cost. The DOE is also funding OLED work in the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)-Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. OLEDs hold the promise of delivering glare-free light and working in some applications where point LED sources are less acceptable.

Acuity Brands continues to be a staunch supporter of LED technology and will study the integration of drivers and controls directly on OLED panels in the new SSL research project. The company believes it can deliver such a panel with 4000-lm output and efficacy of 65 lm/W. Sinovia Technologies will work on plastic OLED substrates that can both improve panel light extraction and lower manufacturing costs.

Two universities will perform more basic OLED research. The University of Michigan is focused on developing more efficient white panels using electrophosphorescent organic light-emitting devices via the use of reduced molecular dissociation. Arizona State University, meanwhile, is focused on a simpler single-emissive material that could enable more cost-effective white panels.

LEDs and light engines

Enabling-technology products in the LED area will span material advancements for more-efficient packaged LEDs to more-efficient modular light engines. Cree, for instance, will study new ways to integrate chips, phosphor conversion, and package architecture into a luminaire reference design that can deliver 150 lm/W at warm CCTs and 90 CRI.

The University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB) will continue to study the droop problem in LEDs in which efficacy decreases at higher drive currents. Indeed, the industry has still not come to a consensus on the exact cause of droop although there have been many theories put forth -- including from prior UCSB work and from organizations such as the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI).

Los Alamos National Laboratory, meanwhile, will study what it calls giant quantum dots (QDs). In particular, red QDs can lead to efficacy improvements relative to red phosphors due to a narrow emission band that doesn't waste energy creating photons in the infrared (IR) spectrum. Presumably, the larger QDs might be applied at the fixture level as opposed to in LEDs.

General lighting products

Moving to SSL research on luminaires and fixtures, Philips Research North America will focus on controls and delivering human-centric lighting (HCL) benefits through OLED panels with spectral tuning. RTI International will study novel luminaire designs intended for a classroom environment and that project will also include dynamic control elements and perhaps HCL benefits.

You can get more information on the latest awards directly from the DOE website. Moreover, the agency has published a PDF of all of the SSL-centric funding up through 2013 including result summaries of completed projects. We last covered core research funding with the Round 8 projects announced a couple of years back.

About the Author

Maury Wright | Editor in Chief

Maury Wright is an electronics engineer turned technology journalist, who has focused specifically on the LED & Lighting industry for the past decade. Wright first wrote for LEDs Magazine as a contractor in 2010, and took over as Editor-in-Chief in 2012. He has broad experience in technology areas ranging from microprocessors to digital media to wireless networks that he gained over 30 years in the trade press. Wright has experience running global editorial operations, such as during his tenure as worldwide editorial director of EDN Magazine, and has been instrumental in launching publication websites going back to the earliest days of the Internet. Wright has won numerous industry awards, including multiple ASBPE national awards for B2B journalism excellence, and has received finalist recognition for LEDs Magazine in the FOLIO Eddie Awards. He received a BS in electrical engineering from Auburn University.