U.S. DOE includes sustainability in R+D roadmap

There is far more to sustainability in lighting technology then merely reducing energy consumption — so I’m thrilled to see that the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solid-State Lighting group has included a new section exploring the broader topic of sustainability in its latest 2014 Multi-Year Program Plan!

In June of 2013, I was invited to present at the U.S. DOE’s Solid-State Lighting Manufacturing R&D Workshop in Boston.  My presentation, Advanced Materials and Methods for Luminaires, explored the basic question: Could R+D investments in novel fixture formats and sustainable materials lead to a radical reduction in LED system cost?  The DOE summarized my presentation as such:

Brad Koerner of Philips Lighting brought the workshop to a fitting close with a tantalizing glimpse into SSL’s near future. Pointing out that today’s fixture formats are a legacy of the gaslight era, he predicted that we’ll see lighting integrated into mass-customized architectural ceiling and wall systems, and that light itself will be processed as a material, much as we process a sheet of gypsum board. Koerner also predicted the increasing importance of “deep-green” sustainability and raised the question of whether lighting products can be made of renewable or recyclable materials instead of the customary steel, aluminum, and plastic.

Elaborating on the topic, I wrote an OP-ED piece in LEDs Magazine imploring the industry to include more investment in innovative sustainable approaches. And the DOE asked me to present again in February 2014 at the Solid-State Lighting R+D Workshop in Tampa, where I explored the Evolution of LED Adoption.  I proposed that second-level innovations and new market opportunities might spring from R+D funding into sustainable materials and technologies, based upon the principles of Circular Economies and Performance Economies. The DOE summarized my presentation as such:

Brad Koerner of Philips Lighting urged manufacturers not only to reduce the amount of “junk” in SSL products by simplifying them as much as possible, but also to shrink the size of fixtures by abandoning preconceived notions based on earlier technologies, and to “go deep green” by using earth-friendlier materials. He said that customers will hold the lighting industry accountable for lifecycle costs, which essentially adds to manufacturing costs, so manufacturers would do well to design products with that in mind rather than focusing only on efficacy and initial cost. Koerner pointed out that to a large extent, today’s fixtures reproduce formats that date back to the gaslight era. Instead of creating highly efficient fixtures that wind up in the junkyard, he urged manufacturers to create a material bank for future generations to reclaim value.

Sustainability is not just about hugging a tree:  R+D into sustainability in lighting systems should lead to significant cost reductions and may open up new channels of revenue.   Now that sustainability has been included in the roadmap, it opens the possibility for the DOE to fund R+D and maybe even competitions for eco-friendly innovations.  The members of the DOE SSL leadership and advisory teams have been very receptive to this line of thinking.  I’m truly grateful they gave me a chance to present — and to make a tiny but positive impact on the direction of the mighty U.S. Federal Government!   Let’s hope this momentum builds.

Below is the email update the DOE just distributed:

DOE Publishes Updated SSL R&D Plan

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has published the 2014 edition of the Solid-State Lighting (SSL) R&D Multi-Year Program Plan (MYPP). This year’s edition provides a description of the activities DOE plans to undertake over the next several years to implement its SSL mission, and informs the development of annual SSL R&D funding opportunities.

Widely referenced by industry and government both here and abroad, the MYPP reviews SSL technology status and trends for both LEDs and OLEDs and offers an overview of the current DOE SSL R&D project portfolio. While the entire MYPP was updated with the latest figures, some revisions were more extensive. For example, the Technology Status section for LEDs was reworked based on an efficacy target of 250 lm/W, with a deeper analysis of the three different architectures (phosphor-converted, color-mixed, and hybrid), and a section on SSL sustainability was added. For OLEDs, we included a more detailed analysis of efficacy for the different panel structures.

The R&D priorities identified in the MYPP were selected based on discussions during the 2014 SSL R&D Workshop in Tampa, FL; more-detailed discussions within a selected focus group; written input; and internal DOE discussions. DOE will continue to update the MYPP on an annual basis, with input from industry and academic partners as well as from workshop attendees, to incorporate new analysis, progress, and research priorities as science evolves.

To download a PDF of the 2014 MYPP, go to www.ssl.energy.gov/techroadmaps.html.

Best regards,
Jim Brodrick