The efficient use of raw materials in (LED) lighting

Technology can be deployed to make lighting more energy-efficient and have longer life-spans. These are essential elements for reducing the environmental impact. Though much more is still possible. Lighting can also contribute to a more sustainable living environment, being an interesting strategic consideration for lighting manufacturers. Eco-innovation with materials for (LED) lighting is also a possibility for realizing sustainable strategies. 

Sustainability itself doesn't sell. A product that consumes less and lasts longer is also not going to easily sell itself. Therefore more is needed. Are there strategies that could contribute to linking sustainable strategies with a healthy business? One possible strategy is to take a different approach to using raw materials with (LED) lighting.   

Breakthroughs are often created when new combinations are formed from sometimes simple concepts. Such products can either be low-tech or high-tech, but still make a significant ecological impact. We give here a couple of lighting examples that have the lowest possible environmental impact thanks to the materials used. 

Plastic bottles as a light source

‘Low tech’ with a huge social and low ecological impact includes discarded plastic bottles reused as a light source. The 'Liter of Light' project transformed discarded PET bottles into cheap, sustainable lighting for illuminating the insides of homes in the third world. As electricity is often not available and candles can be dangerous, this lighting concept uses direct sunlight coming through a hole in the roof (usually made from corrugated iron) with a PET bottle glued into it that partly protrudes inside the home. The bottles are filled with water containing very dilute bleach (to prevent the growth of algae) that breaks up the suns rays thereby providing the living space below with constant light equivalent to a 55 watt light bulb. As long as it's daytime. 

There is also an industrial application of this concept to be found in refrigeration and chiller rooms: 'IceTube' was developed by the Dutch Techcomlight BV in collaboration with the HAN University of Applied Sciences among others. The IceTube was specially designed for environments where there are large temperature differences between inside (-30°C) and outside (+30°C). It is fully insulated and low maintenance. This has resulted in no more thermal losses associated with dome lighters. This now means that artificial lighting is no longer needed for the greatest part of the day. Electricity is saved and the internal areas are always properly lit.

Similar solutions include the addition of LED lighting, for example when built into ultra-low energy, passive housing.     

Desk lamps

Other examples include sustainable light fittings using LED lamps where the focus is on the type of material used for the fitting itself, the LED and the drivers. 

Being more of a gadget, though nonetheless inspiring is the 'Bite Me', a desk lamp (LED) with a frame made from edible bio-plastic

A recent example from the cycLED project (EU FP7) includes a lamp that can be used either as a desk lamp or a wall lamp. The housing is made from an extruded aluminium (recycled) section with an rPET (recycled PET) diffuser. It also uses a low energy LED. The weight performance of the material is assessed. By consciously targeting the choice of materials and combination of components, a materially effective lamp has been designed.

LEDs from food waste

‘High tech’ with a substantial ecological impact can be found in the work of a team of US researchers who discovered a potential new use for food waste. They created new, environmentally-friendly LED lamps by applying quantum dot technology. Food and drink waste was converted into fluorescent nanoparticles, also known as 'quantum dots'. 

As well as reducing the size of the (food) waste mountain, the technology also has the potential for reducing the hazardous waste in LED manufacturing, the likes of which generally comes from rare, toxic elements. The quantum dots are made of carbon and when compared to other quantum dots, have a lower level of toxicity, better bio-compatibility, as well as being cheaper, so that they can be used in more applications. One of the reasons for the latter is the low price of food waste. The long-term stability and performance of the LEDs produced from food and drink waste materials are still being researched. The ultimate goal is the mass production of LEDs that can be used in everyday applications. 

The creation of 'carbon dots' from food waste is proving to have substantial potential. This will simultaneously make possible the valorization of waste and the creation of high-end materials for LED lighting. 

The first of the LED Events takes place in the Elewijt Center (Elewijt - Zemst) on 2 December when Thomas Vandenhaute from Sirris will be giving a presentation titled, ‘The role of technology in the sustainability strategies of the lighting sector'. Further examples and a strategic framework will be presented.     

Would you like to participate? Click here for the programme plus lots of practical information!