Solid State Lighting (SSL), powered by Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs), is the key technology for reducing the many terawatts of electrical energy consumed and the many tons of greenhouse gases produced when generating light around the world. One of the main barriers for the migration to LED powered solutions is the initial investment cost as the LEDs are manufactured using exotic, expensive material substrates. Plessey is the market leader in bringing LEDs into the lower cost, mainstream world of semiconductors, with its pioneering GaN-on-Silicon technology.
LEDs are made using Gallium Nitride (GaN), a semiconductor material that has specific light emitting properties. Plessey's MaGIC™ (Manufactured on GaN-on-Si I/C) process is an innovative approach to LED production that will enable a leading and sustainable position for many years to come. The basis of this approach is to exploit the cost benefit of using standard Silicon substrates on which the GaN layer is grown. Plessey's patented technology solves the physical mismatch issues that result from growing GaN-on-Silicon. Furthermore, utilising the inherent advantages of a large wafer scale silicon based approach, Plessey is able to exploit advanced packaging technology from the IC industry and is bringing to the market intelligent squared LED (i2LED) products that will enable high performance cost effective SSL solutions.
Plessey is bringing to market a range of LEDs for solid-state lighting applications
As a consequence of these benefits the market for white LEDs is said to grow exponentially over the next decade.
The use of standard silicon (Si) substrates is the foundation of Plessey's competitive advantage. Si substrates are widely available in larger sizes, higher volumes and lower prices than the sapphire and silicon carbide (SiC) substrates that are used for most of today's LED production. The race to industrialise GaN-on-Si has been an industry quest for the past few years, and Plessey are pleased to claim a leadership position today that can be maintained for many years to come. Independent market research predicts that GaN-on-Si will claim a significant share of the total LED market and Plessey will be at the forefront of this emerging trend.
Plessey are the first LED supplier with a European wafer manufacturing base. This aspect is a real benefit for the many European based customers and design houses as it provides access to a local competence centre for all things related to the design and production of LEDís. As the LED market is still evolving this will allow for a high level of contact between Plessey and the European market shapers in the solid-state lighting market. Although product design and wafer production are European-based Plessey have a global presence for sales and technical support and will always adapt to any location changes of our customers and partners.
The first application of LED's is in existing form factors that allow for replacement of incandescent and fluorescent light sources. These products are usually a lot more expensive to buy but the higher efficiency leads to clear cost-of-ownership benefits and a greatly increased working life. Other benefits include the ease that LED's can be dimmed and that there are no end-of-life hazardous substance issues to be dealt with. Existing form factors often do not exploit the real strengths of LED technology but they are the most common application of LED products today.
LED's are a real game changer for the lighting market as they enable a completely fresh approach to lighting product and system design. A single LED die is practically a point source of light that means in terms of miniaturisation there are few boundaries to size and weight, this is vital for the rapidly evolving market in wearable electronics. But the application of LED's is not limited to smaller light sources, arrays of LED's can be configured in a virtually infinite number of form factors for large area lighting. And with the extremely long life of LED's there is often no need to provide for easy replacement in the system design.
The most common, traditional form of lighting - the incandescent bulb - produces light through thermal radiation: a metallic element in the bulb heats up and produces light. The second most common form 'the fluorescent tube' makes use of a high electric field applied to a mercury vapour that then generates light. Solid-state lighting also uses an electric field to generate light but it is applied across a solid structure rather than a gaseous vapour, hence the name solid-state lighting. The solid structure referred to is a semiconductor diode that emits light when an electric field is applied, this leads to the name Light Emitting Diode (LED). There are various types of LED that produce different colours (wavelengths) of light but the most common LED technologies produce blue light. By applying phosphor coatings the blue is converted to white light, the same principle as used in fluorescent tubes.
The working life of LED powered lighting is many times greater than that of conventional light sources. This working life can extend to many decades, often longer than the expected life of the host application itself. For example, LED lighting can be embedded into a car dashboard, safe in the knowledge that the LED working life of 40-50 years clearly exceeds the expected working life of the car. To achieve such longevity some basic considerations need to be taken into account in the design and construction of the lighting system. The most critical element is the temperature: there is a direct correlation between the LED working life and the temperature they are subjected to. As with all electronic equipment exposure to moisture will also limit the working life. The practical control of these aspects is well understood and many LED products are now in use that we can confidently predict will last for decades to come.
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