• LED Lighting
  • Lighting Controls
  • Connected Lighting
  • Lighting Technologies

Advanced Supporting Technologies Lead LED Lighting Innovation

Young Hoon Kim
Dec 15, 2022

Hanging LED light bulbs

Technological advances have improved the efficiency and lifespan of LED light sources. However, LEDs alone cannot emit light and require various peripheral components to function as light sources. These supporting technologies are essential to the operation and innovation of LED lighting and include efficient electric components, effective heat dissipation, and control selection flexibility.

Continuous Technological Progress toward Efficient LED Lighting

Silicon (Si) has been the dominant semiconductor for transistors in many electronic components including LED drivers, but that is gradually changing. Compound semiconductors, such as gallium nitride (GaN), offer superior performance, though the high price of GaN semiconductors has been a barrier to adoption. According to a recent article from EEpower, GaN transistors are still not cheap, but their performance is much better than Si, allowing for a higher value offering. Thus, the LED lighting industry has started to adopt GaN-based drivers. For example, Signify, an LED lighting manufacturer, is collaborating with GaN Systems, a company providing GaN power devices, to offer improved LED lighting with higher efficiency, high power density, compact design, and longer fixture life. 

Likewise, advances in heat dissipation, such as thermally conductive plastics (TCPs), have benefited LED lighting. TCPs can have higher thermal conductivity than traditional heat-dissipating materials, such as metals (e.g., aluminum) and ceramics, and can be stronger and enable more flexibility in product design. As technological advances and space constraints increase demand for smaller lighting components, metal heat sink design becomes more challenging. Convestro AG, a company producing a variety of polyurethane and polycarbonate-based raw materials, teamed up with Bally Design, a Pittsburgh-based industrial design company, on a connected street lighting project. The companies’ concept for connected lighting in public spaces utilizes various technologies (e.g., Wi-Fi connectivity acting as a hotspot for internet access, cameras inside lighting to monitor activity for added security). As this large area lighting can generate considerable heat, the application of efficient heat dissipation technology is a key consideration and will be made of Covestro's TCP material.

Wireless lighting control can add considerable functionality to public connected lighting and facilitate efficient remote management. Generally, control hardware is placed within each light fixture’s housing. Lighting manufacturer SITECO provides the freedom to connect a wide variety of lighting controls and sensors externally. SITECO offers luminaires on which sensors and other control devices can be mounted externally with a standardized connection system. More than 20 sensors and remote management components are available, with D4i certification to ensure compatibility. This flexibility allows customers to upgrade the control aspects of their luminaires as technology improves.

Technology Combination Can Provide Optimal LED Lighting

Thermal management is crucial for LED system design, as LEDs can overheat and fail rapidly. The same goes for driver electronics, which may fail 3-4 times more quickly than LEDs. In other words, a typical drive circuit can stop operating before an LED stops emitting or reduces in brightness. The need for effective thermal management can be amplified for connected lighting systems, as the additional functions of these devices generate additional heat. 

Thus, lighting manufacturers, designers, and architects must not overlook the importance of the efficient and effective lighting fixture core components. An understanding of the convergence of various technologies incorporated in lighting products and their effects on performance and functionality can facilitate innovations in commercial, residential, outdoor, and automotive lighting.