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Cree, Eaton, Philips, OLEDWorks and PPG get moolah for LED R&D


June 4, 2013
By Anthony Capkun

June 3, 2013 – U.S. energy secretary Ernest Moniz revealed five manufacturing R&D projects to support energy-efficient lighting products. The Energy Department’s $10 million investment is matched dollar for dollar by private sector funding. The projects will focus on reducing manufacturing costs while continuing to improve the quality and performance of light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and organic LEDs (OLEDs).

Switching entirely to LED lights over the next two decades could save the States $250 billion in energy costs, and reduce electricity consumption for lighting by nearly 50% says the Department of Energy (DoE). By 2030, LED lighting is projected to represent about 75% of all lighting sales, continues DoE.

However, the initial price of LED and OLED lighting is currently higher than the price of traditional lighting, so the projects announced today aim to help achieve cost reductions in manufacturing equipment and processes while improving lighting quality and performance:

Cree Inc. ($2.3 million DoE investment): This project will develop a modular design for LED lights that can link together multiple units to fit larger areas. The design will also use less raw material, reducing manufacturing costs while ensuring high lighting quality and efficiency. Cree’s approach will design and manufacture the different components of an LED fixture—including electrical, mechanical and optical systems—as one, seamless product, helping to further reduce assembly costs and ensure strong performance.

Eaton Corp. ($2.4 million DoE investment): The Eaton project will develop an innovative manufacturing process that streamlines the LED fixture design and removes unnecessary materials and parts. With this approach, the LED chip can sit directly on the heatsink, improving heat transfer within the design and increasing LED efficiency.

OLEDWorks LLC ($1 million DoE investment): OLEDs are typically assembled through transfer or screen printing. The OLEDWorks project will develop and demonstrate new spray printing equipment that reduces overall manufacturing costs and could help support cost-competitive mass production. This technique will give manufacturers greater spray control to take full advantage of expensive organic materials and maximize the visible light produced.

Philips Lumileds ($1.8 million DoE investment): Most LEDs are grown on a sapphire substrate. Through this project, Philip Lumileds will develop an alternative to the standard flip-chip device that grows an LED face-down on the sapphire substrate. Before light can shine through, this substrate must be carefully etched off the device. The Philips Lumileds device will treat the sapphire substrate so that removing the substrate is not necessary, reducing manufacturing costs without compromising lighting quality.

PPG Industries Inc. ($2.3 million DoE investment): Organic LEDs are typically printed on a high-quality glass substrate, then attached to various conductive layers. The PPG Industries project will develop a cost-effective manufacturing process to help commercialize an integrated substrate that includes the glass foundation as well as the other necessary layers. The project will also use standard-grade glass, lowering costs while maintaining performance. Commercially available and low-cost integrated substrates will help build a reliable, high-quality supply chain for this emerging industry.

The announcement made today represents the fourth round of DoE investments in solid-state lighting manufacturing projects since 2010, says the agency, and supports broader department efforts to accelerate domestic manufacturing and technical leadership in energy-efficient technologies.