Plasma lighting – also commonly referred to as light emitting plasma (LEP) – is quickly evolving into a mainstream technology, and is on a trajectory to supplant LEDs and high intensity discharge (HID) lighting across a host of applications where plasma lighting outperforms legacy light sources. The first step in this evolution toward commercial-scale adoption was to overcome the reliability and lifespan limitations of earlier-generation magnetron-powered plasma lights. This was made possible via innovations in solid-state plasma lights, powered by RF Energy, and underpinned by GaN semiconductor technology. Check out our earlier blog post on this topic to read more: RF Energy in Daily Life: Plasma Lighting.
The next step in this evolution was to help enable commercial OEMs to adapt their product designs to incorporate GaN-on-Si-based RF Energy, making it easier for them to take advantage of this unfamiliar technology. Leveraging an RF Energy Toolkit, lighting system designers are now well equipped to reduce development complexities and costs, and accelerate their time to market with solid-state plasma lighting – it will not be long before we see this technology in commercial production. In this blog post we will take a look at some of LEPs’ key benefits, and the mainstream applications where solid-state plasma lighting is primed for adoption.
LEPs SHINING BRIGHT
One of plasma lighting’s major advantages over legacy light sources is its ability to emit a lot of light from a very small space. LEPs are characterized by extremely high lumen density – an LEP bulb the size of your fingertip can produce 10,000 lumens of light. In contrast, a similarly-sized, high-density LED light would need an array of LED in something like a 100cm x 100cm panel.
LEPs are therefore well suited for implementation in vehicle headlights, as they can provide considerably brighter illumination than LEDs, HIDs and halogen lights in a given form factor. This ensures better road visibility and improved driver/passenger safety – benefits that we anticipate will be replicated in other transportation modes, including trains, marine vessels and beyond.
LEPs are also ideal for science and medical applications where bright, high-quality light is essential, but there is limited space available to deploy it in. The use cases here could include everything from operating rooms and medical labs, to endoscopy devices and microscopes.
LEPs FOR WIDE AREA LIGHTING
The high lumen density of LEPs also makes them an ideal candidate for replacing LEDs and high pressure sodium (HPS) lights for wide area lighting in environments like parking lots, warehouses, stadiums, airports and shipping ports. The high level of visual acuity and enhanced color rendering enabled by LEPs also gives them an edge in outdoor showrooms like car dealerships where consumers are drawn to brighter, crisper viewing experiences.
In all of these wide area lighting use cases, the high levels of visual acuity and the even light distribution delivered with plasma lights ensure that everyone in the vicinity has greater awareness of their surroundings. This can improve safety among workers and pedestrians alike, while helping to enable to higher-quality workplaces (and play spaces!).
LEPs IN THE GROWROOM
One application where plasma lighting has already made considerable inroads is horticulture. Grow lighting environments, both big and small, are benefitting from LEPs’ unique ability to emit a continuous, full-spectrum light akin to natural sunlight – including ultraviolet UVA and UVB – without the need for a secondary phosphor conversion such as those used by LEDs.
Plasma grow lights also enable the unique capability to tune the lighting to different frequencies and light spectrums. Plant growth can be enhanced in many ways depending on the type of light emitted on specific parts of the plant, so spectrum tunability can be invaluable for growing healthier plants, fruits, vegetables etc., and can also help increase the potency of plant-based medicines.
COST AND RELIABILITY IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Designers of next-generation lighting systems are of course also mindful of power efficiency and associated OPEX considerations, as well as reliability issues that could lead to higher maintenance costs. After all, producing brighter, higher-quality, full spectrum light is only beneficial to the extent that it can be cost-effectively implemented.
With LEPs, the source efficacy – or lumens created per watt consumed – is up to 20% higher than HID sources, and will be comparable to LED source efficacy. Since LEP bulbs do not utilize electrodes – which degrade over time and represent a common point of failure for many legacy light sources – they are considerably more reliable, and have demonstrated 50,000 hour lifespans.
A BRIGHT FUTURE
The benefits of solid-state plasma lighting are manifold, making LEPs an attractive option for a wide range of applications going forward. In a subsequent blog post, we’ll do a deeper dive on the many benefits of LEPs relative to LEDs, addressing some of the common points of comparison between these two trendy technologies. We’ll also take a closer look at how GaN-on-Si technology impacts the respective design considerations for LEP and LED light fixtures. In the meantime, there is plenty of additional background information available on RF Energy technology and target applications if you’re interested in learning more.