DOE announces five LED and SSL R&D projects to receive $12.5 million

Feb. 27, 2020
National laboratories, universities, small businesses, and industry partners in the SSL sector get $12.5 million in DOE funding as part of the DOE Building Energy Efficiency Frontiers & Innovation Technologies program.

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has announced $74M (million) in research and development (R&D) funding as part of the Building Energy Efficiency Frontiers & Innovation Technologies (BENEFIT) program with $12.5M of the total going to projects in the LED and solid-state lighting (SSL) sectors. Even as the DOE has moved to enact policy against regulations that encourage the use of LED lighting, the agency continues some level of funding for the energy-efficient technology. Several of the new projects, however, have a distinct quality of light angle, a trend we have noted pervading our LED and SSL sectors.

The LESA (Lighting Enabled Systems & Applications) Lab at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is one of the research organizations winning almost $3M in DOE funding. The lab will work to “develop and test an entirely new platform for automated steerable lighting design and control that requires little or no human engagement.” The goal will be LED-based lighting that can programmatically or autonomously deliver sculpted lighting that both minimizes energy usage and optimizes quality. The goal will be dynamically optimizing light in real time.

The LESA system will ultimately use sensors, mechanics, and multiple SSL channels with different spectral power distribution (SPD). Moreover, the researchers will use a digital twin to simulate the functionality of the target luminaire, enabling far more iterations of design concepts. We covered the concept of a digital twin in a recent series of articles in the magazine.

The recent funding also still includes projects based on more efficient LEDs. Lumileds will work with the University of Michigan, the University of New Mexico. Sandia National Laboratories, and Ohio State University, on the so-called green gap where energy efficiency in green LEDs lags efficiency at shorter and longer wavelengths. The team will work on epitaxial optimization to address the gap. And better green LEDs could enable broader usage of monochromatic red, green, and blue (RGB) LEDs to deliver high-quality white light.

The funded research will also extend to quantum dots with Nanosys and the University of California-Merced receiving $2M to work on formulations with no heavy metals yet with the ability to efficiently deliver better color rendering. Indeed, we covered the Osram Opto Semiconductors Osconiq S 3030 QD LED last summer that was limited somewhat by levels of cadmium in the phosphor/quantum dot formulation.

Finally, the DOE awards also included two projects with an OLED focus. We’ve previously noted that the DOE continues its investment in OLED technology, even as the performance, cost, and reliability gap widens relative to inorganic LED technology. And the agency reported on reliability testing of OLED panels last year.

In the newest R&D funding, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology will receive $1.5M to work on the stability and lifetime of blue OLEDs. Separately, manufacturer OLEDWorks received almost $1.5M to work on improved efficacy and longer lifetime in flexible white OLED panels.