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Bridgelux shatters LED efficiency record with silicon tech

Bridgelux shatters LED efficiency record with silicon tech

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Cleantech startup Bridgelux breaks a lighting industry record for LED efficiency using gallium nitride-on-silicon technology. Can it bring down the price of LED light?

Cleantech startup Bridgelux on Tuesday announced that it has broken a lighting industry record for LED efficiency.

The manufacturer said it broke the record for highest lumen-per-watt values for Gallium Nitride on Silicon, or GaN-on-Si, by demonstrating that it could grow layers of GaN on eight-inch silicon wafers -- without bowing or cracking at room temperature.

Bridgelux CEO Bill Watkins promised us in an exclusive interview last year that a "major tech revolution" was underway in the lighting sector, and since then, the company has continued to break efficiency records with the hope that doing so will make LEDs more cost-effective for business and residential customers.

Also: CNET News: Bridgelux hits LED efficiency mark

Bridgelux is working to demonstrate that LEDs using silicon wafers as the starting material -- versus sapphire substrates, the conventional choice -- are cheaper and just as effective.

Why silicon? In the company's own words:

The thermal expansion coefficient of GaN is considerably larger than that of silicon. This mismatch can cause the epitaxial films to crack, or the wafers to bow, either during epitaxial growth or at room temperature. Bridgelux’s proprietary buffer layer process produces crack-free wafers that are virtually flat at room temperature.

The latest figures on the GaN-on-Si chips:

  • Cool white LEDs showed efficiencies as high as 160 Lm/W at a CCT of 4350K.
  • Warm white LEDs delivered 125 Lm/W at a color temperature of 2940K and CRI of 80.

But the real savings is the fact that silicon wafers are used widely in semiconductor manufacturing, making it easier to drive down the cost of manufacturing LEDs and finally give them a shot at taking on market-dominating fluorescents.

Bridgelux says its first commercially-available GaN-on-Si products will arrive to market "within the next two years.”

The plan: use the company's intellectual property portfolio to ink deals with existing semiconductor manufacturers, bringing the price of fabrication down.

The hope: to knock off existing lighting giants such as Philips, Osram Sylvania and GE.

Photo: Bridgelux

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Andrew Nusca

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Andrew Nusca is editor of SmartPlanet and an associate editor for ZDNet. Previously, he worked at Money, Men's Vogue and Popular Mechanics magazines. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and New York University. He is based in New York but resides in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure