Power conversion ratios are approaching physical limits, energizing research and innovation and enabling applications that were so far impossible or at least not economically viable. In lighting, new applications are requiring power designers to explore a new dimension, the efficient conversion from electron to photon which has created the lighting of the future.
Since 1860, when English inventor Sir Joseph Wilson Swan created the first electric light bulb concept, followed by Thomas Edison and his team in 1879 patenting and perfecting the carbon-thread incandescent lamp after many, many attempts and the subsequent and rather ubiquitous “Edison bulb” used around the world, the lighting industry has been continually evolving. From the sodium lamps introduced by Philips in 1932 and the commercialization of the fluorescent lamps by General Electrics in 1938, to the introduction of “energy saving in lighting” this segment has been very innovative but as well contributed to the development of vital technologies in health, safety and sustainability.
The amazing flood of lighting innovations contributed to make our lives better while reducing energy consumption but the real benefits are not always obvious when applied at a very large scale. From: “how to save three quarter of the energy consumed to light gigantic stadiums to how to grow food for a projected 10 billion people in 2050”, energy efficient and intelligent lighting are taking part of the solution! How could that be possible?
The lighting market segment is very diversified, but Solid State Lighting (SSL) based on LEDs have popped the conventional light bubble making the Edison bulb effectively obsolete and they are now infringing on fluorescent lighting as well. The possibilities offered by SSL are also bringing lighting advantages in industrial applications such as for roads and parking lots, stadiums and stages, but also benefiting urban farming, horticulture, water purification, and medical lighting and light therapy.
Where electrons meet photons, SSL requires power designers to work very closely with LED manufacturers. One example is so-called “GaN (Gallium Nitride) lighting,” using GaN transistors in the power stage, and GaN-on-Silicon in the LED element. Although anecdotic, it reflects the industrial maturity of the usage of GaN in the power and lighting industries. As a power designer it is very interesting to follow both technologies and I foresee huge benefits in that association.