|Breakthrough research at UC Santa Barbara may illuminate the way to brighter and more efficient solid state LED lighting systems. The work puts efforts for high-efficiency, high-brightness, solid-state lighting on a fast track.|
Since the light bulb was initially invented in Thomas Edison's laboratory, there have been only gradual and minor improvements to the efficiency of lighting systems. Now, researchers at UC Santa Barbara's Solid State Lighting & Energy Center (SSLEC) have made it possible to optimize phosphors –– a key component in white LED lighting –– allowing for brighter, more efficient lights.
"These guidelines should permit the discovery of new and improved phosphors in a rational rather than trial-and-error manner," said Ram Seshadri, a professor in the university's Department of Materials as well as in its Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, of the breakthrough contribution to solid-state lighting research. The results of this research, performed jointly with materials professor Steven DenBaars and postdoctoral associate researcher Jakoah Brgoch, appear in The Journal of Physical Chemistry.
LED (light-emitting diode) lighting has been a major topic of research due to the many benefits it offers over traditional incandescent or fluorescent lighting. LEDs use less energy, emit less heat, last longer and are less hazardous to the environment than traditional lighting. Already utilized in devices such as street lighting and televisions, LED technology is becoming more popular as it becomes more versatile and brighter.
"So far, there has been no complete understanding of what make some phosphors efficient and others not," Seshadri said. "In the wrong hosts, some of the photons are wasted as heat, and an important question is: How do we select the right hosts?"
As LEDs become brighter, for example a they are used in vehicle front lights, they also tend to get warmer, and, inevitably, this impacts phosphor properties adversely.
"Very few phosphor materials retain their efficiency at elevated temperatures," Brgoch said. "There is little understanding of how to choose the host structure for a given activator ion such that the phosphor is efficient, and such that the phosphor efficiency is retained at elevated temperatures."
However, using calculations based on density functional theory, which was developed by UCSB professor and 1998 Nobel Laureate Walter Kohn, the researchers have determined that the rigidity of the crystalline host structure is a key factor in the efficiency of phosphors: The better phosphors possess a highly rigid structure. Furthermore, indicators of structural rigidity can be computed using density functional theory, allowing materials to be screened before they are prepared and tested.
This breakthrough puts efforts for high-efficiency, high-brightness, solid-state lighting on a fast track. Lower-efficiency incandescent and fluorescent bulbs –– which use relatively more energy to produce light –– could become antiquated fixtures of the past.
"Our target is to get to 90 percent efficiency, or 300 lumens per watt," said DenBaars, who also is a professor of electrical and computer engineering and co-director of the SSLEC. Current incandescent light bulbs, by comparison, are at roughly 5 percent efficiency, and fluorescent lamps are a little more efficient at about 20 percent.
"We have already demonstrated up to 60 percent efficiency in lab demos," DenBaars said.
SOURCE UC Santa Barbara
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