image credit: Intematix
Some colours of LEDs are easier to make and are brighter than others; blue is currently the brightest, so manufacturers usually coat a blue LED with a phosphor, which gets excited and emits light of a preferred colour and broader spectrum. But it is complicated (the LED is really hot) and time-consuming to adjust to demand for different fixtures, fitting and colours.
Enter Intematix, which launched Chromalit today. They separate the LED from the phosphors, so that they are not on the chip but in front of it, much like the gel in front of a theatrical lighting can. Except it isn't a gel or filter, but a phosphor covered disk that actually generates the light. Benefits:
Image Credit: Lloyd Alter
ChromaLit derives its efficacy advantage over white LEDs from three major areas, lower operating temperature, elimination of a diffuser to reduce glare and increased light extraction. Since ChromaLit operates remotely from the high temperature LED chip, it produces light more efficiently and in a more stable way, which also improves dimming performance. Since the light from the ChromaLit architecture is already diffuse and uniform, the additional diffuser required in conventional LED systems is removed, further increasing efficacy. Finally, the LED to phosphor interface in conventional systems is a cause of light reflection and absorption.
The phosphors can be mixed to cover the colour temperature range from 2700 to 5000 degrees. (Here is a table that shows colour temperatures of different kinds of fixtures and conditions)
Since I was unable to attend their press conference in New York, Intematix sent me a test kit comprising a mixing reflector with four phosphor rounds. I have been playing with it for a month; I had a particular lighting problem, where my wife photographs food and readers complain that it looks like something the cat threw up. We tried all of the phosphor rounds.
There were not a lot of instructions about how to hook up the power to the kit, but a big warning that Intense blue light may be harmful to the eyes. Do not look directly into the light. Of course I hit the switch and got a blast of it, these unfiltered LEDs are powerful. Cycling through the various phosphor rounds, we were able to get intense, uniform light with excellent rendition, with a sharpness and balance that was as good as being in sunlight.
Cookie credit: Kelly Rossiter, recipe here.
One of the filters simulates incandescent light, way too warm for good photography.
The one described as warm white was also a bit, well, warm.
But the one described as soft white was crisp and sharp, and nobody has complained about the quality of the photography since we started using this.
Other benefits of separating the phosphors from the LEDs include up to 30% greater system efficiency, and greater design flexibility. CEO Mark Swoboda says that "By separating the phosphor from the chip, Intematix has created a customizable lighting solution of the highest quality, an innovation destined to disrupt the lighting industry."
Ideally, this sort of modularity will reduce the headaches and costs associated with stocking and manufacturing different lights, says CEO Mark Swoboda. A hotel wants 1,000 soft white 60-watt equivalent LED bulbs for its rooms? No problem -- the appropriately shaded ChromaLit components can be combined with a generic blue lighting canister. Tomorrow, 500 ceiling lights with an amber hue are needed in New York. With a little mixing and matching of components in the warehouse, you're done.
Perhaps some day we will not have phosphors on our LEDs at all, and will just dial up the colour we want by mixing equally powerful green, red and blue units. But that is some time away, and until then, this is probably as simple, flexible and effective system that one can imagine. More at Intematix.
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