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DoE Announces 'L Prize' For Solid-State Lighting

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the bright-idea dept.

Government 220

erikaaboe notes that the US Department of Energy has announced a competition to develop efficient solid-state lighting technology. The "L Prize" program will allocate as much as $20 million in cash prizes for innovations to replace the common light bulb. Further details are available at the L Prize website. From the press release: "Lighting products meeting the competition requirements would consume just 17% of the energy used by most incandescent lamps in use today. The plan also includes a rigorous evaluation process, including testing of proposed products by independent laboratories (conducted through DOE's CALiPER test program), as well as field evaluations by DOE and utility partners to assess products in real world conditions. Four major California utilities ... have signed a Memorandum of Understanding with DOE, agreeing to work cooperatively to promote high-efficiency solid-state lighting technologies."

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220 comments

Sooo..... (5, Insightful)

Gruturo (141223) | more than 5 years ago | (#23597259)

DoE had $20M to offer for this contest, but couldn't find $4M to save Fermilab [slashdot.org] ?

Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of energy efficient lightning, but what the hell?

Re:Sooo..... (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23597319)

I'd scoff, but I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you're trolling brilliantly. What follows is clearly for the benefit of others. IF they pay the $20 M out, the savings to the economy, in just the US, could be measured in major fractions of a TRILLION. Not that Fermilab isn't very worth while, even critical, but it's more of a high risk, high reward extremely long term investment. You know, like investigating the photoelectric effect.

Re:Sooo..... (2, Insightful)

bytesex (112972) | more than 5 years ago | (#23597363)

I think if you gave fermilab $20KK and told them to come up with this new lamp though, that you would be certain of the outcome. Whereas now, it's up in the air a bit.

Yes, but ... (4, Insightful)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 5 years ago | (#23597469)

the L prize gives nothing out UNTIL something is found. So the truth is, that the L-prize really costs nothing except for real results.

Re:Sooo..... (2, Interesting)

Vectronic (1221470) | more than 5 years ago | (#23597481)

And that is probably a good thing.

If FermiLab (or a single organization/company) was designated as "you do this, no one else" then you would end up with basically a monopoly, FermiLab (or whatever) sells/gives the patents, etc to a few major or maybe only one major company (GE or whatever) done deal.

The "L Prize" means that quite a few companies are aiming for that star, one will get the prize, thus funding, and other benifits, but, the second third and probably even further down on the list get recognition they may not have gotten otherwise, which could potentially create alternatives, if not in America, then in another country.

Granted, this could (is) all happen(ing) without the DoE, but its mainly about getting people to pay attention than it is trying to figure out a problem that doesnt really exists (Solid-State lighting is already fairly common, at least in Canada)

Re:Sooo..... (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23597615)

Solid-State lighting is already fairly common, at least in Canada

Ah. that explains what makes Canadian chicks look cool.

Re:Sooo..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23598115)

Solid-State lighting is already fairly common, at least in Canada
You're probably thinking of florescent vs. incandescent lights. Some provinces have moved to ban incandescent light bulbs by 2010 or something like that and people are buying CFLs now.

Solid state would by silicon based, perhaps LED light bulbs. I know they DO exist, especially in Christmas lights and some niche desk lamps, but they're not that common here in Ontario.

Prizes probably help little (4, Insightful)

mrcaseyj (902945) | more than 5 years ago | (#23597631)

The success of the X-Prize seems to have made everyone crazy about prizes to stir development. But it seems to me that the X-Prize only worked great because there were some very special characteristics about the commercial manned suborbital launch vehicle problem. I think there were two primary reasons the X-Prize was successful.


The main reason was that there was no need to develop any new technology. It was only necessary for previously developed tech to be implemented cheaply. Any great NEW technology like efficient light bulbs or a cancer cure or whatever will usually have such a huge payoff to its developer that a few extra million isn't likely to add much extra incentive. If funders think it can be done then they'll fund it even without the prize. If those who would fund it see it as a long shot then the prize won't change the equation much.


The other reason the X-Prize was successful was that it wasn't clear that a manned suborbital rocket could be profitable. Boeing or Lockheed could have easily built such a rocket. If they thought it would be profitable then why wouldn't they? Maybe they thought that anything less than a very careful and therefore prohibitively expensive development project would have left their deep pockets open to excessive liability. Again, concerns like this are not a problem for a lighting technology or a cancer cure or an efficient car technology.


Oh well, best of luck anyway. Even if these prizes are a waste at least they aren't wasting all that much in the grand scheme of things.

Re:Prizes probably help little (1)

bhima (46039) | more than 5 years ago | (#23597683)

The crypto crowd is also very enthusiastic about using prizes and contests to develop new things. But I have no idea what that may suggest about the similarity of Rocket Science and Cryptography.

Re:Prizes probably help little (2, Informative)

jank1887 (815982) | more than 5 years ago | (#23597719)

Actually, it's not the X-Prize driving these. It was the DARPA grand challenge (the one with the autonomous vehicles). Off the top of my head, I don't recall which pre-dates which, but the success (and notoriety) of the DARPA prize program has led the powers at be to give authority for additional prize programs in other areas. DoD is currently sponsoring a Wearable Power prize program, and I'm not at all surprised to see DOE get in on the deal as well.

Re:Prizes probably help little (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23597773)

Keep in mind that if you have access to sufficently acceptable metalworking facilities and a selection of scrap materials an the interwebs you can probably make a physical vapor deposition chamber for about $20k buying a cryopump and turbomolecular pump probably used. YOU can then go to the local public university's engineering and or physics library and begin to try to educating yourself to make intelligent guesses and the very tedious process of seperating success from failure by failing in every possible way you can imagine.

Now there will likely be another set of on going expenses, liquid nitrogen, a dewar container, and material to experiment with as well as devices to measure what you've done. and naturally something to keep a record of failure in.

The crazy thing is, there are people doing that. And when I get my head above water financially, I'll be one of them. Now GE by all rights should be plowing billions into this. It'll make tons of money. Quickly. For a LONG time. But they're not, because Neutron Jack doesn't know about making money, only cutting costs and short term gains. It's a sickness that colors him, his peers, and all that have succeeded them.

Keep in mind a flourescent backlight might have a 2000 hour life. LEDs can sometimes have 50,000 hour lifetimes. Or more. 5.7 years of light, where most of the energy is released as visible light as opposed to heat. Not to mention no Hg powder getting all over the place when you break a LED. Not that LEDs are the only way, or the best way to get to that most noble of end. Cheap, durable, long lasting, clean, efficent light.

One more thought, much of the world trapped in ginding poverty doesn't have light that doesn't come from the sun. No lamp at night to read by, to better one's self with. The result of this prize, should it appear, would change lives quickly. Truly a tide that would lift all boats. Now Fermilab might ultimate realize richer fruit. In 100 years. Or more. A fruit which only science historians might associate with Fermilab. But this one.... Well, it can do a lot, comparatively soon.

Re:Prizes probably help little (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23598009)

One more thought, much of the world trapped in ginding poverty doesn't have light that doesn't come from the sun. No lamp at night to read by, to better one's self with. The result of this prize, should it appear, would change lives quickly.
Especially for vision-correction industry. Myopia pandemic beginning quite strongly correlates with introduction of wide availability of night lights. Circadian rhythms are important for your health, longevity but first of all, your vision.

Re:Prizes probably help little (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 5 years ago | (#23598137)

Exactly. The payout for getting someone into space, or near space, isn't directly noticeable. Maybe 20 years down the road trans-oceanic flights will be done at near space altitudes, because of the projects that we do now. But it's not something you can directly make large profits at right now. If you design an efficient light bulb (what's wrong with CFLs and LEDs?), you can immediately bring it to market and sell a lot of units, and make a lot of money. Same goes with a drug to cure cancer. I'm sure there's tons of people trying to do this already. The 20 million doesn't really make that much of a difference, because you stand to make billions if you can solve it and patent it.

Re:Sooo..... (2, Insightful)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 5 years ago | (#23597335)

I imagine that the DoE's political remit doesn't go beyond using up fossil resources a tiny bit slower. We'll switch to promoting new sources when the ruling dynasties have switched enough of their portfolios away from oil.

Re:Sooo..... (3, Insightful)

moosesocks (264553) | more than 5 years ago | (#23597541)

Fermilab didn't need "saving"

The $5mil was a tiny part of their total budget, and the lab was inevitably going to be downsized considerably next year, once the Tevatron is shut down.

Also, energy-efficient lighting is a higher priority than particle physics for the DOE at the moment. Given the energy/oil crunch at the moment, it only makes sense that they're funneling a larger portion of their money into short-term projects to find new methods of generation and energy conservation, rather than funding "hard science," which technically isn't even their job to do in the first place.

Re:Sooo..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23597565)

/shameless plug

One small startup in India, Radtech, in Bangalore, has designed device to save upto 20%-25% on street lights, with minimal effect on luminescence or other problems like flicker, fluctuation etc. And considering millions of street lights, this would add up a lot.

Is there any other competition where he could participate?

Wait till you see the 'K Prize'! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23597657)

The recipient gets $40M and they get to specify which nuclear waste stockpiles they want to go unattended due to resulting cost cuts...

Re:Sooo..... (2, Interesting)

kmarshallbanana (1192023) | more than 5 years ago | (#23597729)

In all seriousness I would say this is a much better way to spend that money. A solid state light with low energy consumption would have immense impacts for todays hot topic of global warming, not to mention that if it doesn't work then it won't cost them a thing, they will only pay if its successful. Also, given the LHC it makes sense to reduce spending on Fermilab slightly nowadays.

Congress, not DOE makes many of these decisions (2, Insightful)

MyNameIsFred (543994) | more than 5 years ago | (#23597851)

Many of these decisions are made by Congress, not DOE. As part of the President's Budget submission, DOE submits a budget proposal to Congress. Congress then goes through that budget. As part of their Constitutional duties, Congress frequently says "you're spending too much money here, not enough there." Congress passes the budget, and the President generally signs it. DOE is then stuck with the budget it is given. While DOE has some discretion in moving money around because of unforeseen circumstances, it does not have a free hand. Furthermore, frequently through the committee reports, Congress provides "guidance." In essence saying, "We, the Congress, put this money here for a reason, you better not move it, or there will be hell to pay." Federal agencies pay a lot of attention to "Congressional language." Furthermore, there is a problem in DC known as the "color of money." Congress puts money into different accounts. Frequently, the law says this color of money (e.g., money for salaries) cannot be used for other things (e.g., building new buildings). Added all together, there is a limit on what federal agencies can do.

GoD announces L(ife) prize for nazi disempowerment (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23597265)

a no-brainer for many of US.
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by ourselves on everyday 24/7

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Err , LEDs? (4, Insightful)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 5 years ago | (#23597267)

Am I missing something or have they forgotten about white LEDs which are making pretty rapid inroads into general lighting? They're far more efficient that incandescent or strip lights.

Re:Err , LEDs? (1)

FudRucker (866063) | more than 5 years ago | (#23597293)

i like LED lighting, and as small as LED lights are what i would like to see to replace my florescent shop lights is something like a flat panel of led lights three or four foot long by one foot wide and only a quarter to half inch thick that can be mounted to the ceiling...

Re:Err , LEDs? (2, Funny)

montyzooooma (853414) | more than 5 years ago | (#23597341)

Google for "led grow lights" and you'll see plenty of panels. I'm using a fluorescent set-up at the minute but can't wait for LED to become more mainstream. And I'm not even growing pot, just capsicum.

Re:Err , LEDs? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23597339)

Is that all you care about? Efficiency? What about the fact that the light looks too blue or green and is therefore displeasing, and won't be quickly adopted? I haven't switched to CFL's because quite frankly, they suck.

Re:Err , LEDs? (4, Informative)

Smidge204 (605297) | more than 5 years ago | (#23598065)

Spectrum is one legit problem with LEDs. In general it's difficult to get full spectrum lighting from LEDs - but it IS possible. The problem right now is although LEDs have the best Lumen/Watt efficiency, they have the worst Lumen/Dollar ratio.

Regarding CFLs... I was at the hardware store getting stuff to fix a lamp and decided to put down $5 for a pair of 23W CFLs (7000 lumen/100W equivalent). I have to say that, having owned one of the very early CFL types several years ago and being very disappointed with it, I was VERY surprised at these new ones. Instant-on brightness was equal to the 100W incandescent it replaced, and it actually got BRIGHTER after a minute or so. The light has a slight tint to it - not quite as "yellow" as sunlight but not white/blueish like the 4' tubes in most offices.

All I can say is give it a try. Made a believer out of me.
=Smidge=

Significantly bright LEDs are very expensive (5, Informative)

MichaelCrawford (610140) | more than 5 years ago | (#23597355)

I expect they'll get there eventually, but they're not practical for regular home or office lighting yet.

They work great for flashlights, and the headlight and taillight on my bike use LEDs.

But I researched LED lights a couple months ago, and found that a "60 watt replacement" LED light was expected to cost well over a hundred dollars, and at that time was still in development, and not yet available.

I finally settled for a couple twisty bulbs, but I'm not too happy about it because they contain mercury.

I'm also not too happy that the mercury warning on the package just advised me to dispose of them "according to local laws". As if it would be OK to let the mercury into the groundwater if there wasn't a law specifically against doing so!

Re:Significantly bright LEDs are very expensive (1)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 5 years ago | (#23597437)

But surely the price will come down when mass production of these kicks off. Almost every new technology is expensive when its only just been released onto the market.

Re:Significantly bright LEDs are very expensive (1)

peragrin (659227) | more than 5 years ago | (#23597653)

right now CFL's aren't worth the energy they save. In order to save on costs the actual life of the lamp is considerably shorter than what you expect too. Plus you have the fact that CFL's have mercury in them that you are dumping right into a landfill.

CFl's in general aren't worth the time or money today.

LED's suck for other reasons. notably you can't predict their failure rate, especially when mass produced. Normally if it doesn't fail within the first 6 months of use your good but I have seen LED's fail at random. Since you can't replace an individual LED the total system is degraded, over the entire life of the bulb. And that's before the price of the unit to start with.

We need something like LED's but that is easier to deal with.

Re:Significantly bright LEDs are very expensive (2, Informative)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 5 years ago | (#23597881)

CFL's aren't worth the energy they save
Here, a 60W incandescent costs around 50p and lasts about six months. A 20W CF costs about £3-5. I don't know how long they last because I haven't yet had to replace any of the ones I bought four years ago, but we'll say four years for the sake of argument. Over four years, the capital cost of incandescents is £4, while the cost of CFs is £3-5. If you run it for two hours a day, then you are saving 58kWhs, which is about £6-10 (depending on a lot of factors) at the moment. The TCO of a CF is therefore somewhere between £5-11 lower than incandescents over four years. Scale that up by the number of bulbs in the average house and it's a significant saving.

Re:Significantly bright LEDs are very expensive (1)

asc99c (938635) | more than 5 years ago | (#23597985)

Huh?!? Almost every light in the everyday rooms in my house is now a CFL of some kind (except decorative halogen stuff). Decent versions get to full brightness almost immediately and last a very long time. My old house had 50 year old wiring and blew over a dozen incandescents in the dining room ceiling light (which took 5 40W bulbs) over 18 months. We switched to CFLs and that fitting did blow one bulb, but that's the only bulb I've replaced in 5 years of using them.

If you live in the UK, the B&Q own brand value 20W bulbs are the best I have found yet if you want a bright ceiling light - ideal for halls / kitchens, maybe not so much living rooms. I got a pack of 4 for under £10. They are straight up to proper brightness the moment you flick the switch and are properly 100W incandescent brightness.

I've also got some extra-small 5W CFL bulbs in wall lights in the living/dining room, and these do still suffer from the slow (~1 minute) startup time that some people associate with CFLs. But it's good to know I can run all the nice decorative wall lights downstairs on 35W instead of 280W.

Re:Significantly bright LEDs are very expensive (2, Informative)

Larsrc (1285062) | more than 5 years ago | (#23597525)

Check out dealextreme.com, they have them available. No, not down to CF prices yet, but significantly more efficient.

Re:Significantly bright LEDs are very expensive (2, Informative)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 5 years ago | (#23597527)

But I researched LED lights a couple months ago, and found that a "60 watt replacement" LED light was expected to cost well over a hundred dollars, and at that time was still in development, and not yet available.
Errr, I see spot bulbs composed of a dozen of lights, claiming to output as much light as a 60W incandescent bulb, for 3 euros at my local store... Is there some factor I am missing ?

Re:Significantly bright LEDs are very expensive (2, Insightful)

nmg196 (184961) | more than 5 years ago | (#23597809)

Yeah - they're lying, or you were mistaken. They either weren't LED bulbs (probably CFL) or they weren't 60W output. There is currently no commercially available 60W equiv LED bulb for anything like this price.

Re:Significantly bright LEDs are very expensive (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 5 years ago | (#23597995)

I got this catalog from a serious French retailer : http://www.selectronic.fr/upload/produit/pagecatalogue/4-07.pdf [selectronic.fr]

It states : 12 candelas, 120 degrees. From an online converter I found, it amounts to 37 lumens.

I found this page : http://members.aol.com/ajaynejr/lumen.htm [aol.com] which states that a typical 60 W light bulb emits between 600 and 900 lumens. So 20 of these LEDs would do it, and would cost 16 euros at this retailer (known to practice quite high prices)

A friend of mine was really interested into this stuff a few months ago. He told me that this technology is improving really quickly these years and that prices are falling at an incredible rate. Maybe the 100 dollars was a 2005 figure or something ? But to me, the DoE is funding something that will happen in the next two years by the sheer pressure of the market and will claim to be responsible for this evolution when it will reach the arbitrary point they chose. Wasted money if you ask me...

Re:Significantly bright LEDs are very expensive (5, Interesting)

brunes69 (86786) | more than 5 years ago | (#23597555)

There is 60 times more mercury in the battery in the watch on your wrist than there is in 1 CFL.

How many people do you think send their watch batteries to the toxic waste disposal centre?

The hazards of mercury in CFLs is vastly overblown by the media looking for a story.

Re:Significantly bright LEDs are very expensive (2, Informative)

jabuzz (182671) | more than 5 years ago | (#23597827)

Nice try but there has been now mercury in watch batteries for over a decade.

Re:Significantly bright LEDs are very expensive (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23598143)

"There is 60 times more mercury in the battery in the watch on your wrist than there is in 1 CFL."

CFL mercury amounts are capped at 6mg but how much is in a typical (say AA) battery?

Re:Significantly bright LEDs are very expensive (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23597721)

A LED bulb capable of replacing a 60W old-fashioned bulb shouldn't be more than $15 by now - probably close to ten dollars in the US.

Re:Significantly bright LEDs are very expensive (1)

Thornburg (264444) | more than 5 years ago | (#23597833)

Exaggerate much?

I was shopping for them "a couple of months ago" (in my case, March), and LED light bulbs were easily available at that time. Expensive, but easily available.

Example: C Crane (www.ccrane.com) is among the first few hits on google when you search for "LED Light Bulb". Another early hit, www.theledlight.com has similar output bulbs available also.

Re:Significantly bright LEDs are very expensive (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23597871)

I'm also not too happy that the mercury warning on the package just advised me to dispose of them "according to local laws".
That gets me upset too. I hate having to conform to local laws.

Re:Significantly bright LEDs are very expensive (1)

Threni (635302) | more than 5 years ago | (#23598061)

> I'm also not too happy that the mercury warning on the package just advised me to dispose of them "according to local laws". As if it
> would be OK to let the mercury into the groundwater if there wasn't a law specifically against doing so!

I think companies are concerned with legal problems, rather than moral ones. Similarly, I don't expect to get lectures about casual sex on the side of contraceptive packets, or bearded fuckwits telling me if I drink alcohol I'll go to hell. I think you're expected to make those decisions on your own.

Re:Significantly bright LEDs are very expensive (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23598149)

I've read that the amount of extra coal burned to power a "mercury-free" incandescent will release more mercury into the air than breaking a CFL.

The point still remains that we could be using LEDs instead which use even less power and contain no mercury, but the CFL/mercury scare seems to be an invention of the media to scare people into watching more TV.

Re:Err , LEDs? (1)

Larsrc (1285062) | more than 5 years ago | (#23597557)

Standard CF bulbs are being marketed as using 20% of the energy of normal bulbs. Is it really worth it to throw $20M at those 3 percentage-points? The article doesn't say anything about other requirements, such as price, durability, quality of light, etc (not that incandescent light is "good" by any stretch).

Re:Err , LEDs? (1)

Alioth (221270) | more than 5 years ago | (#23597659)

They aren't actually more efficient than compact flourescents (yet!) - solid state lighting only beats CF efficiency at the moment if it's red or green. However, I bet it won't be too long.

The other difficulty with white LEDs is that the common type you get aren't white, they are very pale violet. My front bike light, with a big Luxeon power illuminator is a fantastic bike light (and only beaten by extremely expensive HID lights), however, it is not white, it's very obviously pale violet - so much so that once I've been riding a few minutes in the countryside, whenever I see a car headlight it looks as orange as a sodium light once I've got used to the pale violet "white" light.

Re:Err , LEDs? (1)

Jesus_666 (702802) | more than 5 years ago | (#23597963)

Give me an LED that is as useful for lighting an entire room as a halogen bulb and I'll agree. Currently, LEDs are too dim, too expensive and they have a too narrow light cone.

Solid-state? (5, Insightful)

Awptimus Prime (695459) | more than 5 years ago | (#23597281)

Wouldn't it be assumed all modern light bulbs are 'solid-state' and will continue to be?

Perhaps someone wanted to sound smart by using more words than needed in that press release.

Re:Solid-state? (2, Informative)

Awptimus Prime (695459) | more than 5 years ago | (#23597289)

Oh, I see. They want to avoid utilizing a vacuum. This doesn't seem to matter either, as long as someone comes up with a way to do it with greater efficiency.

It'll take a lot of research and effort to figure out how to make a better LED with only (up to) $20m in rewards.

Re:Solid-state? (4, Informative)

David Gerard (12369) | more than 5 years ago | (#23597295)

Fluorescents work on a gas being turned into a plasma, so wouldn't qualify. LEDs are solid-state, but are presently very expensive as lightbulbs. Incandescents are fragile, but might be "solid state", but fail on the power requirement.

Re:Solid-state? (2, Interesting)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#23597313)

LEDs are solid-state, but are presently very expensive as lightbulbs.
In outlay, yes. But they are unlikely ever to need to be replaced. I could imagine light fittings being sold with hard wired LEDs, and lasting decades.

Decades? Not really (4, Informative)

JustShootThemAll (1284898) | more than 5 years ago | (#23597367)

The bright white leds that are currently used are not all that stable. Light output decreases with use because the phosphor coating degrades. Remember that white leds are actually UV-leds that need a phosphor coating not unlike fluorescent tubes.

It takes about 1000 hours for the led to reach 50% light output. The time from 100% to about 85% is measured in single digit hours!

So, no, light fixtures that last for decades are right out. With current technology, that is.

Re:Decades? Not really (5, Informative)

minimum (719615) | more than 5 years ago | (#23597635)

Bullshit. This applies to very cheap LED's bought from China (or similar). Leading manufacturers like Cree [cree.com], Lumileds [lumileds.com] and the rest claim 75% of lumen maintenance after 50'000 hours.

Re:Decades? Not really (1)

arakon (97351) | more than 5 years ago | (#23597825)

Where can these LEDs be bought in a form ready for insertion into a standard US light fixture? I would buy a few.

Why not fluorescents? (3, Interesting)

DFJA (680282) | more than 5 years ago | (#23597377)

I don't understand this - fluorescents easily beat all *mass produced* white LEDs with good colour rendering in efficiency, and as long as you don't believe the manufacturers' 'incandescent equivant ratings', are a perfect replacement for incandescents. I know there are laboratory LEDs which have higher efficiency, but these are a long way off being mass produced at reasonable prices. I'm all in favour of pushing technology, but prescribing that it must be 'solid state' is completely wrong.

It reminds me of the old UK cycle-lighting regulations, which basically stated you had to have a light bulb conforming to one of about 3 standards, all incandescent. Once efficient red LEDs came along, it was ages before the regulations changed to make them technically legal - long after everyone in their right mind stopped using the legal versions.

Re:Why not fluorescents? (1)

lisaparratt (752068) | more than 5 years ago | (#23597407)

And then the regulations went the other way, made those stupid flashing cycle lights legal, and now no one at night can tell whether the cyclist is a couple of miles up the road, or mere milliseconds from being flattened under their front tyre. /me golf claps .gov.uk

Re:Why not fluorescents? (2, Interesting)

DFJA (680282) | more than 5 years ago | (#23597453)

The interesting thing here is that when people see a flashing red light, they tend to think 'slow moving vehicle' rather than cyclist. This is a double-edged sword - on the one hand, it makes (most) people go more slowly and cautiously, which is good whether you are a cyclist, pedestrian or horse rider (yes, I've come across one at night!). On the other hand, it makes people think 'slow moving vehicle', which many cyclists are definitely not. The number of times I see stupid motor vehicle drivers overtake me dangerously because they have assumed I am going slowly without actually observing that I'm not is astounding. There are many reasons cyclists could be going very fast - good bike, fit cyclist, downhill, tailwind etc. or a combination of these.

Re:Why not fluorescents? (1)

lisaparratt (752068) | more than 5 years ago | (#23597643)

I'm a motorcyclist. I see the flashing light, slow down way before I need to, and go wide as a precaution. Note that this is a precaution to defend against a potentially large vehicle in front of me, not as a general defense. If anything, it puts me in more danger from an unseen vehicle coming in the opposite direction.

Generally, when I realise what's happened, I pull myself back in, accelerate back up to the speed limit in a fraction of a second, and then screeam past the cyclist, in order to get back to a safe and defensible lane position with no distractions. They probably then swear at me from their yoghurt weaving high horseand call me a road hog and menace to society.

On the other hand, if they'd had sensible lighting in the first place, I'd have probably have over taken them leisurely, and everyone would have been safe and happy.

Thing is, I've spoken to car drivers, and they find the things equally frustrating and retarded. Presenting a *false danger* to other road users is at best inconsiderate, and at worst malicious.

Re:Why not fluorescents? (1)

Jafafa Hots (580169) | more than 5 years ago | (#23597831)

The problem is, NON flashing lights simply don't get noticed. This has been proven in tests. They seem more noticeable, they actually seem brighter - and they can actually BE brighter because a battery powered light would drain the batteries too fast if the light were steady. Instead, flashers often use capacitors to make the flash more powerful while still requiring a slow drain on the batts. So in essence your testimony proves they work - you damned sure are noticing these bikes... whereas with the less bright, steady lights you'd probably completely overlook them.

Re:Why not fluorescents? (1)

Jafafa Hots (580169) | more than 5 years ago | (#23597837)

also, I should point out the adjustment factor. They're new to you, you'll get used to them. Rear flashers on bikes have been the norm here in the states since forever, and I've never heard anyone complain about them.

Re:Why not fluorescents? (1)

smoker2 (750216) | more than 5 years ago | (#23597689)

Meanwhile the law actually states that you must have a *fixed* red light light showing to the rear of the vehicle. Fixed means "not flashing". So these lights are only legal if they are used in addition to a standard fixed (non flashing) light. I don't see any cyclists with both, but many with flashing lights only, and sometimes they are fixed to the cyclists back pack not the bike. The laws are there for your benefit, so don't abuse them. Yeah I know that sounds cheesy and authoritarian, but you would expect standards to be applied in networking and electronics, otherwise all hell breaks loose. This situation is exactly the same - all vehicles must meet the standards, or none must. Do you fancy a situation where cars and trucks can get away with flashing rather than fixed lights ? Because that's what changing the standards will result in.
Preface this comment with "in the UK".

Re:Why not fluorescents? (1)

Animaether (411575) | more than 5 years ago | (#23597869)

well then... in "the NL" :

There was a debate about this and the minister for traffic affairs (whatever the translation would be) pretty much just shrugged. His reasoning was that cyclists simply need to be seen clearly by other traffic. So whether that light is attached to a backpack or to an arm or beneath the seat or - where it's supposed to be - at the end of the luggage rack bit... doesn't matter as much as that there -is- a light there. Oh, and it should be red. Preferably not flashing, but as pointed out before, non-flashing red lights are typically assumed to be motorists (cars, motorcycle, moped) rather than bicyclists. In the same line of reasoning, attached to the arm works better than attached to the back, as it tends to move more.
Ditto the front side should have a white light. Whether that's a proper headlight that actually illuminates the street or not so that a bicyclist can see where he's doing when cycling out of town with insufficient street lighting, or just a single white LED.. again, he doesn't care, as long as it's there to signify to oncoming traffic that there's a cyclist.

My own bicycle just has the standard white light / red light combo where they're supposed to be, but I also replaced my pedals with Pedalite-like pedals; I don't like the actual pedalites as they have additional white/red which I find confusing. Mine blink all-orange front, back and sides. It definitely makes me a lot more visible and, importantly, makes it -very- clear that I'm a bicyclist thanks to the motions of the lights with pedaling.

Re:Why not fluorescents? (1)

Awptimus Prime (695459) | more than 5 years ago | (#23598107)

Being an avid biker for years, I've never owned one of those LED cluster lights that didn't have multiple modes. My last one would do a static always-on light, then a couple of different flashing modes. Everyone I've seen use the same type seems to just leave them flashing.

When away from traffic, I always leave my light off. It gives foot/bike patrol officers too much visibility on your location when illegally cutting through parks after midnight. I actually had a plump female officer try and chase me down on foot for this minor infraction recently.

Re:Why not fluorescents? (2, Informative)

SlashWombat (1227578) | more than 5 years ago | (#23597623)

Your car headlights are supposed to illuminate the curb. There is also the matter of parallax as you get closer to the light/Bicycle, you can determine the distance.

If you have trouble with this, I suggest you either get your eyes tested, or stop smoking whatever it is.

Alternatively, try riding a bicycle (even during the day) for an hour or so a day, for a couple of weeks. You will discover that it doesn't matter how visible you are, ignorant arseholes in cars will actively try to run you down anyway.

Re:Why not fluorescents? (1)

lisaparratt (752068) | more than 5 years ago | (#23597749)

I ride a motorcycle. I'm far more aware of just what utter "ladies front bottoms" cagers are. The headlights are hardly the most powerful things to start with, and even less useful when dipped.

Re:Why not fluorescents? (1)

jimicus (737525) | more than 5 years ago | (#23597447)

I don't understand this - fluorescents easily beat all *mass produced* white LEDs with good colour rendering in efficiency, and as long as you don't believe the manufacturers' 'incandescent equivant ratings', are a perfect replacement for incandescents.
Compact flourescents tend to produce light that's a sickly greenish-yellow in colour and spread over a relatively small part of the visible spectrum. Much better CFLs are available (google for full spectrum CFL), but they're damn expensive and tend to be mail-order only.

You might find something you like in your local supermarket or B&Q, but realistically you'd have to buy one of each manufacturer's and try them all. The bulbs you see in the supermarket don't even acknowledge that a spectrum of light exists, much less how much the bulb covers or what colour temperature light it throws out.

Re:Why not fluorescents? (1)

David Gerard (12369) | more than 5 years ago | (#23597483)

Not that damn expensive - about £5 a bulb. Cheap enough that my house is entirely fitted with daylight-spectrum bulbs, just because they're so much nicer. (We have a few of the crappy-spectrum CFLs around, for the toilet and laundry and stuff where it matters less, just because they give them away now.)

Re:Why not fluorescents? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23597901)

Certainly stay away from the ones that aren't energy star... they have shorter life, low lumens, and lower quality light.

I bought some great ones at Target. Full spectrum, and about $1 each. The ones from the local dollar store aren't worth the money - just like most things from the dollar store.

Re:Why not fluorescents? (1)

David Gerard (12369) | more than 5 years ago | (#23597479)

Yeah. Personally I think they should stick with energy efficiency, taking the whole manufacturing and disposal cycle into account, and not mandate anything else about the technology.

(Until they come up with a bulb that runs on the tears of widows, orphans and kittens killed by Nazis with plutonium or something. Then they might want to narrow it down.)

Re:Why not fluorescents? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23597651)

don't forget the mercury. Current fluorescents are probably on the path to being banned. Hence the need to find a substitute.

Re:Why not fluorescents? (1)

jabuzz (182671) | more than 5 years ago | (#23597865)

That is because they where trying to ban the use of carbide lamps at the time, as they where considered dangerous. At the time the only alternative was an incandescent bulb, so by specifying the use of a filement in the light they prohibited carbide lamps and achieved their goal.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbide_lamp

Oh and it was more than just bicylces it applied to, it was all vehicles on the public highway.

Re:Why not fluorescents? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23597867)

I know some people who have bought LED lamps online from some place online and said it was lower wattage and just as nice as his CFL or incandescent. It cost $30 for what would be a $4 CFL or $1 incandescent, but if it does really last as long as advertised then it would be a good deal--and costs are bound to go down.

Re:Why not fluorescents? (1)

xeoron (639412) | more than 5 years ago | (#23597889)

My guess would be because fluorescents flicker at high speeds and causes eye strain and headaches.

Re:Why not fluorescents? (1)

jamesholloway (819266) | more than 5 years ago | (#23597981)

This is a bit misleading, since LED's can now achieve 90 lumen/watt efficacy and colour rendering greater than Ra 90. Their greater expense is also offset by greater life. Follow the developments with Philips LEDs if you're interested in the leading edge of commercially available LEDs. The technology is moving at a tremendous rate. Look at I agree with you in many respects, since in the right application fluorescent is better. In office lighting, for instance, a fluorescent tube is a big light source. With an LED you're attempting to get equivalent light out of very small point sources. Controlling and limiting glare with fluorescents is much easier than controlling glare with LED. However I believe the reality is that LEDs will have largely replaced fluorescents within 10 years, but are a temporary measure themselves. OLEDs are on the way, and have compelling advantages. Imagine a light source you can spray onto your room surfaces, and pass a small current through to make glow: now *that's* how to control glare.

Re:Solid-state? (5, Funny)

mrbluze (1034940) | more than 5 years ago | (#23597387)

Wouldn't it be assumed all modern light bulbs are 'solid-state' and will continue to be?

Nope, the one in my fridge is a little man who makes sure there's light when I open the door, for the small cost of mysteriously eating up all the chocolate custard only hours after I put it in there. He's not solid state.

The guy in the freezer is solid state, though

Re:Solid-state? (3, Funny)

Jurily (900488) | more than 5 years ago | (#23597463)

The guy in the freezer is solid state, though
I treat my annoying neighbors that way, too.

Re:Solid-state? (1)

rabbitfood (586031) | more than 5 years ago | (#23597811)

I think they mean without the use of gases - current bulbs contain mixtures of gases that, I imagine, take a fair amount of energy to produce and aren't always nice to handle.

What they want is something entirely solid, requires a minimal amount of electricity and preferably renewable. Something like a beeswax candle...

20 million enticement to enter THAT market? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23597391)

Who has been waiting for a 20 million dollar enticement and would otherwise not try to enter that billion dollar market? Also: "agreeing to work cooperatively to promote high-efficiency solid-state lighting technologies" does sound a lot like the formation of a cartel.

Re:20 million enticement to enter THAT market? (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 5 years ago | (#23597485)

The 20 million is a simple way to focus ppl. In addition, it makes it sound like the feds are doing something. Afterall, payment for results only.

Re:20 million enticement to enter THAT market? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23597693)

I guess in your mad rush to throw your opinion out there, you forgot a bunch of letters in the word "people". Better luck next time, champ.

So... (4, Funny)

MassiveForces (991813) | more than 5 years ago | (#23597421)

Anyone got any bright ideas?

Re:So... (1)

Jimbob The Mighty (1282418) | more than 5 years ago | (#23597465)

Firstly, That was just bad. A good pun is meant to be it's own reword.

Secondly, Just FYI Australia actually BANNED the manufacture of incandescent light bulbs some time ago, and we get by just fine on fluorescent ones.

Just incidentally, could anybody give a comparison between fluorescent and white LED lighting energy requirements/bulb lifetime?

Re:So... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23597591)

LEDs are much smaller, last longer, are easier to dim and don't mind being switched on and off frequently.
CFLs are available with better spectrum quality, are still more energy efficient and are available for standard fixtures in sufficient brightness.

Re:So... (5, Funny)

somersault (912633) | more than 5 years ago | (#23597471)

I read the headline and summary as being about solid state 'lightning' for about half a minute before realising what was actually going on. Solid state lightning would be great for a Thor halloween outfit, and distracting your coworkers (as well as giving them internal burns)

My Tax Dollars (1)

RawGutts (879317) | more than 5 years ago | (#23597503)

Can I have some of those tax dollars back please..

Or maybe they can spend that 20 million on the Network Security because it sucks so damn bad..

Fluorescent light bulbs? (1)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | more than 5 years ago | (#23597551)

I feel like I've entered a twilight zone or something. Neither the article nor any of the comments so far mention the fluorescent lights, as if they don't exist. Isn't that what we are supposed to be using now? Why set the target of beating the outdated incandescent bulbs that are being banned in many countries anyway (USA by 2014) instead of the better technologies that already exist. Weird

Fluorescents not the answer (1)

Comboman (895500) | more than 5 years ago | (#23598043)

Fluorescents are more efficient than incandescents but they have many disadvantages: slow startup, limited operating temperature, can't be used with dimmers or motion detector switches, contain mercury, and low power factor [edn.com] (a significant problem if reducing strain on the power grid is the goal). Fluorescents are a step in the right direction, but not the final solution.

mo3 do3n (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23597711)

Common knowledge handy, yo0 are free

17%? (1)

RandoX (828285) | more than 5 years ago | (#23597819)

That's an unusual number. Why did they pick 17%? Why not 15 or 20? Is there any significance to that? Also, are they taking into account the amount of energy required to produce the bulb? What if these new "energy efficient" bulbs required as much power to create as a normal bulb used it its entire lifetime?

Re:17%? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23597973)

Because it is a nice sounding number... it evokes authority and importance, more than 16. Numbers close to 20 sound ridiculous and common. I mean c'mon, 20%? Everyone uses 20% for when they are trying to scare you a bit but they are not sure of the results. So 17% gives the right amount of certainty and fear. Forget smaller numbers, no one gives a damn for percentages less than 16%, which could be used but it's too close to 15, which is another ridiculous number to use in a report, any report. So yes, 17% it is. Remember this number! And use it when you want to give the impression that you did your homework.

Re:17%? (1)

Kythe (4779) | more than 5 years ago | (#23598139)

Could be based on a calculation of efficiency needed to reduce petroleum consumption a certain amount.

Oblig. Microsoft Joke (1)

SpzToid (869795) | more than 5 years ago | (#23597937)

Question: How many Microsoft engineers does it take to change a lightbulb?

Answer: None are required, because Microsoft can declare Darkness(TM) to be the new standard.

Solid State Rocks (1, Redundant)

posys (1120031) | more than 5 years ago | (#23597967)

Solid State Lighting makes so much more sense than florescent, especially since there is NO MERCURY. Also SS lasts so much longer and uses even LESS energy than MERCURY laden florescent lighting. Hopefully "they" will rollout SS QUICKLY and stop making MERCURY laden florescent lighting altogether. DEMAND Homedepot, Walmart, Lowes etc carry SS Lighting, tell your friends. http://roboeco.com/ [roboeco.com]

Lasers (3, Interesting)

Kythe (4779) | more than 5 years ago | (#23598133)

Right now, diode lasers are among the most efficient (if not the most efficient) light emitters available. I'm guessing the winner, if there is one, will involve a laser or three plus diffusers/despeckling to get general lighting.

Of course, getting cost down is another thing entirely.
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