LEDs offer bright future for test engineers—and everyone else

LED lamps are poised to make inroads in worldwide lighting, according to Sri Jandhyala, strategic marketing director for the lighting segment at ON Semiconductor. Jandhyala delivered his remarks during an invited address titled “LED Lighting—Opportunity, Challenges, and the Future” to attendees of the Test Vision 2020 Workshop, held earlier this month in conjunction with SEMICON West.

The US annually consumes 700 TWhr for lighting, representing one-fifth of total annual electricity consumption, he said, and the US in turn consumes about one-fifth of the world's total electricity. Energy-efficient LEDs had less than 1% penetration in the US in 2010, he said, when an LED bulb with a standard Edison Screw Base (ESB) cost more than $60 dollars.

Over the last six months, he said, the situation has changed dramatically, and now, Cree widely advertises such bulbs on televised sports events for $10 (for a dimmable bulb with a 10-year warranty), enabling LED penetration to reach 36% in 2020. The $10 price tag, he said, represents the breaking of a key psychological barrier to LED purchases. And the US lags, he suggested, noting that last year Japan posted 30% LED penetration.

LED adoption is driven, he said, by government regulation requiring or encouraging the phasing-out of incandescent bulbs. He noted that surprisingly, Cuba was the first country to institute an incandescent light ban.

He cited a key metric for LED lamps. A single 12.5-W LED lamp can deliver 20 million lumen hours, equivalent to three CFL lamps or 22 incandescent bulbs.

Jandhyala referenced the innovator's dilemma with respect to LED lighting. The first forays of a new product often fail to meet the basic performance specs of the incumbent technology, but they offer other features—such as improved power efficiency. As the new technology improves with respect to the traditional metrics, it replaces the incumbent.

He noted that current barriers to LED adoption include awareness, high initial cost, and quality concerns across manufacturers. So far, he said, LED benefits have been all about energy savings. But as barriers fall, new innovations will open up: motion sensing and smart lighting, color control, and spectrum shaping.

All in all, the LED future looks bright, and for test engineers, the good news is that all the semiconductor components of LED lamps will need to be tested.

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