Lightfair International 2012, held at the Las Vegas Convention Center May 9-11, drew more than 24,000 lighting industry professionals from 73 countries (a show record) who were eager to view the newest light sources, fixtures, control systems, and support products that make up this $19 billion industry. Sponsored by Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IESNA) and the International Association of Lighting Designers (IALD), this annual gathering also offered more than 100 industry experts who taught 72 breakout sessions on subjects such as lighting controls, plasma lighting technology, daylighting techniques, and electrical specifications of lighting equipment for designers.

Show Highlights

Linear fluorescents account for about 80% of all lamps used in the commercial sector, and the market has shifted to T8 and T5 lamps over the last decade. For that reason, the low-mercury content, extended-life T8 and T5 lamps and their more efficient and controllable electronic ballasts were important products to review at the show. Presently, they offer many of the same features as light-emitting diodes (LEDs) at a greatly reduced cost for new construction and remodeling. The same is true for HID lamps, especially metal-halides in the outdoor-sector base, which increased to 32% in 2010. Nevertheless, an observer at the show could easily have called the event “LEDfair.”

The rapid emergence of LED lighting has brought with it some challenges. Because an LED chip has a more
complex construction than traditional light sources, many factors — such as the type of emitter, the substrate upon which the emitter is mounted, the optical system, and the driver electronics — all contribute to performance gains. One company, Soraa, bet that placing a gallium nitride (GaN) on a GaN substrate would be better than having GaN crystals grown on a dissimilar base — usually sapphire or silicone carbide. This fundamentally different crystal structure of GaN on GaN allows the LED to operate at much higher output levels and generate more light per unit of chip material than other LEDs. The first product is a replacement for a 50W MR16 incandescent lamp, matching the MR16 form factor (the same overall length and weight), while using a single LED chip rather than a chip array. The output has no pronounced blue peak or violet and cyan dips generally found in other LED lamps.

Other companies are developing GaN-based blue LED chips (1.1 mm × 1 mm) fabricated on 8-in.-diameter silicon wafers, which will reduce manufacturing costs due to the larger wafer size. Along with developments in the chip itself, innovations in drivers are also important. Osram Sylvania’s PRO-Flex family of constant current drivers is designed to adapt LED fixtures for use in Emerge-Alliance-compliant low-voltage ceiling grids supplying 24VDC power.
A variety of LED modules, which integrate a driver, LED chips, lens, and thermal management in a compact disk, were also displayed at the show. The Zhaga Consortium, formed in 2010 to create standardized interfaces for LED lighting components, now has more than 150 members. Two standards approved thus far include a socketable light engine with integrated control gear and a 50-mm-diameter spotlight with the control gear in a separate housing. Standards are also underway for an indoor linear fixture and a non-socketed streetlighting engine.

Another challenge is dimmability and interoperability of products. While efforts are underway to address the dimming issue with standards and test procedures, two companies introduced LED lamps capable of incandescent-like dimming. Osram Sylvania showed the Ultra PAR38 lamp with CCT dimming from 3,000K to 2,000K by a combination of blue phosphor-converted LEDs and amber LEDs. Juno Lighting, in its Generation 3 Downlights Series, offers a WarmDim feature that uses a microprocessor-controlled LED light engine to add amber chips, replicating the warm color of incandescent dimming as lumen output decreases.

Make room for OLEDs

Organic LEDs (OLEDs) are also edging toward market readiness. Somewhat similar to the LED, the typical OLED is composed of thin layers of organic materials sandwiched between an anode and cathode. However, OLEDs are extremely flat panels that produce even, glareless, heat-free illumination over the complete surface, rather than creating concentrated beams of light the way LEDs work. With a CRI of 85, output is about 40 lm/W at present, but 100 lm/W is expected in the near future.

Verbatim, a recognized brand in the consumer electronic market, showed a market-ready OLED panel, called Velve, which has the RGB layers arranged in a parallel strip formation. Because each layer operates independently, a range of colors, including white lighting, are achieved. The back of the 146-mm × 133-mm panel has a tonal controller, which provides a wide range of color temperatures from 2,700K to 6,500K, and brightness can be set from 0% to 100%.
Universal Display Corp. is working with Acuity Brands Lighting, which currently offers its Kindred  OLED pendant, to create a phosphorescent OLED luminaire with efficiencies greater than 70 lm/W that is also color tunable between 2,700K and 4,000K.