UL Research aims to deliver Smarter, Greener and more Sustainable Light-bulbs

Intelligent LED lighting systems will soon be found everywhere from energy-efficient sky-scrapers to the average Irish home according to researchers at the University of Limerick who are taking on the challenge to make light bulbs ‘smarter’, greener and more efficient using digital control.

The research team based at the Circuits and Systems Research Centre at UL have received in excess of €380,000 funding from Enterprise Ireland to develop the technology which will allow homeowners to control the level, tone and even colour of light coming from their LED light-bulbs. This technology will, in time, even allow homeowners to control their lighting systems remotely via an app on their mobile phone.

The new technology, which will essentially make LED light-bulbs programmable, is set to have a significant impact on the microelectronics industry, for which the mid-west represents a fast-growing hub of expertise. The global power management semiconductor market was valued at US$29.90 billion in 2012 and it is estimated to reach US$46 billion, rising at a 6.1% compound annual growth rate from 2013 to 2019. The microelectronics industry accounts for €6 billion in annual exports to the Irish economy.

Senior Research Fellow, Dr Mark Halton, University of Limerick explains; “The lifetime of an LED is on average 35,000hrs compared with 10,000hrs for compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and only 1,000hrs for incandescent bulbs. We expect that LED lights will replace all existing inferior lighting products still available on the market today within the next 5 years. Our research aims to develop ‘smarter’ digital control algorithms which will take lighting from an analogue system to a digital system allowing for much increased functionality as well as significant savings in energy consumption. This can potentially have a global impact on energy supply requirements and resources.”

“Over the last 10 years, CFLs have been replacing the older traditional bulb because of their reduced power consumption and longer lifetime. However, CFLs are very bulky, brittle, they require time to reach full brightness but most importantly they contain mercury so are not environmentally friendly. It is for these reasons LEDs will replace all other forms of lighting in the next few short years, and we see evidence of it already as global retail giant IKEA recently announced that from 2016 they will only stock LED lighting products in their stores,” continued Dr Halton.

This is a high growth global market and it is envisaged that the outputs will create sustainable high-skill engineering jobs in this sector. Enterprise Ireland funded the research through its Commercialisation Fund.