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Brilliant White Light with Amber LEDs; NREL Licensing Webinar December 10th

November 12, 2013

LED bulbs are the future of lighting for industry, business, and consumers. As the conversion to solid-state lighting (SSL) progresses, analysts are projecting huge growth in the SSL market at a compounded annual rate of 18.7%, reaching $56.79 billion by 2018. We’re already seeing accompanying declines in fluorescent bulb sales. And the company that has the best LED bulbs — bulbs that efficiently produce bright, sunlight-quality light — will capture the largest share of that rapidly growing market.

Graphic of a square made up of a blue surface with green and red dots floating on top.
Graphic of a square made up of nine smaller squares ranging in color from blue, red, green, and yellow.

Who will have the best LED bulbs? Well, chances are good that it’ll be the company that licenses a new technology developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), which is hosting a December 10th webinar about how to license this LED innovation.

NREL’s new technology is expected to make LED lightbulbs even better. “Better” in what ways? NREL’s technology enables:

  • Brilliant white light
  • Unprecedented efficiency
  • Greater luminosity
  • Inexpensive design.

As will be explained at the December 10th licensing webinar, NREL achieves these improvements by incorporating its patent-pending Amber LED design into a color-mixing approach to produce white light. Current LED lightbulbs make white light by coating a blue LED with a phosphor material that shifts the light’s color from blue to white. Unfortunately this process wastes energy and reduces the LED’s—and consequently the bulb’s—brightness.

NREL has discovered a better way to make amber (yellow) LEDs, which can be combined with red, green, and blue LEDs to produce white light—a technique not unlike the red-blue-green (RBG) lights used in projection televisions. By mixing four (RBGA) colors of LED rather than “filtering” blue LEDs, the LED bulbs can make brighter white light with better color more efficiently.

Photo of a woman leaning over laboratory equipment.

Dr. Kirstin Alberi led the development of NREL’s Amber LED technology that will revolutionize solid-state lighting (Photo by Dennis Schroeder/NREL)

This technology was developed by an NREL team led by Dr. Kirstin Alberi, a graduate of MIT and UC-Berkeley. (For more about Dr. Alberi, check out this profile in DOE Pulse.) As Dr. Alberi explained, “There are a couple of fundamental material issues that limit the efficiency of phosphide-based LEDs. Our work here at NREL is focused on circumventing these material limitations in order to improve the efficiency of amber LEDs.”

And that work is yielding measurable results. “Our LEDs could be as high as 20% efficient. Compare that to the state-of-the-art 10% efficiency, and you can see that’s a big jump,” noted Dr. Alberi.

NREL’s licensing of this innovation is being led by its Technology Transfer Office’s Dr. Yoriko Morita. “Lighting accounts for a large share of how electricity is used in both residential and commercial buildings,” Dr. Morita said. “Solid-state lighting is predicted to reduce this consumption by 46% by 2030.”

With those kinds of energy savings, it’s not surprising that the SSL market is poised to grow so much, so fast.

More information about NREL's Amber LED technology is available online as is registration for the December 10th licensing webinar.