Paul Hartmann, JOANNEUM RESEARCH ForschungsgmbH
In the long term LEDs have the potential to take the place of conventional lighting systems on a large scale. What do you consider to be the greatest advantages of this technology?
Today LEDs are already the most efficient of all sources of white light. Their advantages over compact fluorescent lamps are freedom from mercury and a better light spectrum. LED lights have a long service life and can be regulated. With complex LED systems it is possible not only to dim light intensity but also to set up different overall colours; that makes this technology so interesting for all sorts of forthcoming applications.
Why are LED systems so energy-efficient?
Filament bulbs radiate a good deal of heat, whereas LEDs radiate very little; because their emission spectrum is concentrated on visible light wavelengths, they achieve a very high level of energy efficiency. On the other hand, semiconductor technology itself has grown more and more efficient in recent years.
Will the new developments soon make low-cost solutions for the mass market possible?
I‘m convinced of that. As production volumes increase, the cost of production – and thus sales prices – will continue to drop. If you look at the total cost of ownership, i.e. the sum of purchase price plus the cost of the energy consumed, LED lamps are already extremely competitive even today.
How does Austrian research and development shape up in international competition?
University and non-university research here is certainly respected internationally, and then a great deal of research in the lighting sector is in progress in Austrian industry; for instance, in the field of chip-on-board technology Tridonic are in the lead. We have any number of pioneering, successful lamp manufacturers, from large firms such as Zumtobel, via medium-sized companies like XAL, to small firms like Lumitech or EcoCan that can provide very interesting innovations in the LED field. To ensure Austria‘s prospects here, though, we must invest massively in new areas of research in future, too.
Where is more research needed?
Production must be made more efficient, so that we can get low-cost solutions to the market. It‘s also important to improve the quality of white light. In future, completely new sources of light, such as laser devices, could become marketable – here too there is a tremendous need for research. From the point of view of sustainability, biogenic approaches, such as utilizing bioluminescence for lighting, would be an interesting area for research.