This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site you agree to our use of cookies. To find out more, see our Privacy and Cookies policy.
Skip to the content

Share this

Free weekly newswire

Sign up to receive all our latest news direct to your inbox.

Physics on film

100 Second Science Your scientific questions answered simply by specialists in less than 100 seconds.

Watch now

Bright Recruits

At all stages of your career – whether you're an undergraduate, graduate, researcher or industry professional – can help find the job for you.

Find your perfect job

Physics connect

Are you looking for a supplier? Physics Connect lists thousands of scientific companies, businesses, non-profit organizations, institutions and experts worldwide.

Start your search today


Bright lights, big city: a lighting revolution comes to New York

Photograph of Giana Phelan of OLEDWorks

Bright spark: Giana Phelan of OLEDWorks shows-off some of the company’s wares.

By Robert P Crease in New York

“One well-lit place” is the best way to describe the exhibition hall at Javits Center in New York when it opened on Tuesday morning. I fully expected to be bedazzled at every turn because the venue is hosting LIGHTFAIR, the world’s largest lighting technology trade fair, and so the hall is packed with more than 600 booths designed to highlight, so to speak, the world’s lighting revolution.

That revolution was set in motion by the development, two decades ago, of the blue LED. Blue LEDs – combined with red and green – made it possible for white LED lights to compete with traditional incandescent light bulbs. Because LEDs consume only a fraction of the energy of incandescents, it is only a matter of time before the revolution is complete.

As I wandered through LIGHTFAIR’s exhibition booths, I saw the state-of-the-art of this revolution’s progress. The only things standing in the way of LEDs’ complete triumph, most exhibitors told me, was a certain instability in the colour quality of LED light, some heat-removal issues, and the development of larger and more flexible surface illumination. A lighting engineer friend of mine said that the end of the revolution will occur when LEDs are good enough to replace the familiar MR-16 halogen lamp – which have long been literally a fixture in boutiques where they are often used to spotlight merchandise.

A few booths featured lighting incorporating lenses to compensate for slight variations in the colours of LED lighting. At least a dozen booths had OLEDs, or organic light-emitting diodes. Giana Phelan, the director of business development at OLEDWorks, explained to me that these consist of a thin layer of organic material sandwiched between two electrodes, which emit light when a current is passed through. “The rest is packaging,” she said, pointing to her booth’s array of samples. An advantage over LEDs, which are point sources, is that OLEDs are surfaces and can be made bendable.

Some booths had multipurpose light fixtures that integrated different kinds of sensors: traffic, noise, weather, environment quality, parking, security, and so on. Other booths showed off different kinds of lighting for indoor, outdoor, underwater, theatre, sports and city use.

Photogrpah of Lumium's periodic table of lighting

Elemental: Lumium’s periodic table of lighting.

I was drawn to Lumium’s booth, which exhibited a range of hi-tech lights each of which, it was claimed, was named after a chemical element. “Quark?” I asked. “Ah,” said co-founder Jordan Kloos, “you are smart!” I asked why he had chosen that name for that particular fixture. “It’s small,” he said, pointing overhead to one, “and as basic as you can get!”

One LIGHTFAIR speaker was Charles Hoberman, an innovative designer and engineer whose “Hoberman sphere” is surely now in every child’s toybox. It was entertaining to hear him utter engineering phrases such as “adaptive fritting” and “emergent surfaces”, when I had no idea what they meant. I loved his final remark: “I always try to think of some message to end on, and I never can.”

This entry was posted in General and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.
View all posts by this author  | View this author's profile


  1. M. Asghar

    “I always try to think of some message to end on, and I never can!”, but Robert, you did have about the LIGHTFAIR that “light lamps” are going fast to being very effiecient and heatlessly the coolest possible.

  2. Trackback: Physics Viewpoint | Bright lights, big city: a lighting revolution comes to New York


  • Comments should be relevant to the article and not be used to promote your own work, products or services.
  • Please keep your comments brief (we recommend a maximum of 250 words).
  • We reserve the right to remove excessively long, inappropriate or offensive entries.

Show/hide formatting guidelines

Tag Description Example Output
<a> Hyperlink <a href="">google</a> google
<abbr> Abbreviation <abbr title="World Health Organisation" >WHO</abbr> WHO
<acronym> Acronym <acronym title="as soon as possible">ASAP</acronym> ASAP
<b> Bold <b>Some text</b> Some text
<blockquote> Quoted from another source <blockquote cite="">IOP</blockquote>
<cite> Cite <cite>Diagram 1</cite> Diagram 1
<del> Deleted text From this line<del datetime="2012-12-17"> this text was deleted</del> From this line this text was deleted
<em> Emphasized text In this line<em> this text was emphasised</em> In this line this text was emphasised
<i> Italic <i>Some text</i> Some text
<q> Quotation WWF goal is to build a future <q cite="">
where people live in harmony with nature and animals</q>
WWF goal is to build a future
where people live in harmony with nature and animals
<strike> Strike text <strike>Some text</strike> Some text
<strong> Stronger emphasis of text <strong>Some text</strong> Some text