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The future of light bulbs is in silicon, startup says

The future of light bulbs is in silicon, startup says

Posting in Energy

Lighting startup Bridgelux announced a major breakthrough by demonstrating a silicon-based LED light bulb.

Soon, "Silicon Valley" may not evoke an image of server stacks, but light bulbs.

Solid-state lighting startup Bridgelux announced on Tuesday that it achieved a "major breakthrough" by demonstrating a 135 lumens-per-watt LED bulb using gallium nitride-on-silicon as a substrate.

Conventional LED wafers use sapphire or silicon carbide substrates, which are more costly and more difficult to manufacture than GaN-on-silicon. Bridgelux says that combination has made it difficult for LED lighting to be widely adopted in homes and commercial buildings.

Its new silicon-based LED, on the other hand, offers a 75 percent reduction in cost -- not just important for the average consumer, but the corporate facilities manager buying thousands of them for installation across a multinational footprint.

For the lighting geeks out there, some quick stats:

  • A single 1.5mm LED operated at 350mA producing 135 lumens per watt at a CCT of 4730K.
  • Epitaxy process on eight-inch silicon wafers is compatible with existing automated semiconductor lines.
  • Operating voltages: 2.90V at 350mA and less than 3.25V at 1 Amp.

Bridgelux predicts delivery of the first products within two to three years.

In an exclusive interview with SmartPlanet in June, Bridgelux CEO Bill Watkins predicted that nimble cleantech startups would overthrow the major players. This appears to be the latest salvo in that war.

The big takeaway here? Lights are rapidly going high tech while prices fall precipitously -- and the company that makes your next bulbs may be the same one that made the brain to your next smartphone.

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Andrew Nusca

Editor Emeritus

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