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Are Graphene Composite Heat Sinks & Housings Ready To Replace Aluminum?

New materials have changed the lighting industry before. The change from RGB to phosphor-converted white LEDs was enabled by InGaN blue-pump LED development. Similarly, many TIR lenses have shifted from polymers such as polycarbonate to optical silicone..Another potential materials leap for the LED industry is that Chinese factories are beginning to offer high output luminaires with graphene composite heat sinks & housings.

New materials have changed the lighting industry before. The change from RGB to phosphor-converted white LEDs was enabled by InGaN blue-pump LED development. Similarly, many TIR lenses have shifted from polymers such as polycarbonate to optical silicone. I’ve also recently written about the great performance leaps of GaN-on-GaN transistors and their ability to double luminaire output or halve driver size. .

Graphene is a one-atom-thick layer of carbon atoms arranged in a hexagonal lattice. It is the building block of Graphite (which is used, among others things, in pencil tips), but graphene is a remarkable substance on its own – with a multitude of astonishing properties which repeatedly earn it the title “wonder material.” The 2010 Nobel prize in physics went to the two scientists who first isolated graphene in 2004.

Graphene composite heat sinks & housings can now significantly reduce weight and cost compared with typical aluminum alloys, for the same application.  The heat dissipation of graphene composites is the same as aluminum alloy but at a fraction of the cost.

Have you considered developing graphene composite heat sinks and housings? Share your findings and experience with this new approach in the comments below or send us an email – we are looking forward to learning more about this material.

Example of a graphene composite high bay luminaire.

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City Downtowns Evolving Away From Office Use….What’s Next?

The pandemic has changed office work in many ways. Companies that are creating new offices are doing so predominantly in suburbs now, rather than downtowns. Many companies and industries have accepted hybrid and remote work arrangements, dramatically reducing the need for office space altogether.

The pandemic has changed office work in many ways. Companies that are creating new offices are doing so predominantly in suburbs now, rather than downtowns. Many companies and industries have accepted hybrid and remote work arrangements, dramatically reducing the need for office space altogether. Many think these changes are here to stay for the foreseeable future. In 10 of the largest US cities, office occupancy averages are less than half, roughly 44% as of mid-August, of what they were in 2020 before the pandemic hit.

Will this bring the death of urban downtowns? Leading urban economist & professor Richard Florida argues in Bloomberg that downtown districts will continue to survive and evolve as they always have. Florida says that city downtowns have survived far worse than the pandemic’s current upheaval of the office real estate market. Downtowns have continuously adapted to great fires, floods and natural disasters, epidemics and plagues, wars, deindustrialization, and terrorist attacks. He points out that downtowns dominated by office buildings are as recent as the 1950s. Prior to that, they were filled with small businesses, factories, and residences.

Prior to COVID, downtowns were already shifting to restaurants, nightlife, cultural venues, schools, apartments & condos, and other services and amenities. The pandemic and its persistent increase in remote work have accelerated this shift. Downtown housing costs have recently rebounded and skyrocketed past pre-pandemic levels. This incentivizes more conversion of older downtown office buildings into residential apartments & condos. Some cities, including Salt Lake City, UT; Columbus, OH; Fresno, CA; and Bakersfield, CA have rebounded beyond pre-pandemic levels. Florida suggests thinking of downtowns as connectivity districts, a city’s most central location for business and social meetings at restaurants, cafes, and other venues. Read the full article here.

What does this all mean for lighting? Total office space is likely to decrease. New office construction will shift from downtowns to suburbs and small city locations that minimize commutes. Downtowns will continue their shifts toward restaurants, nightlife, cultural venues, schools, apartments & condos, and other services and amenities. This would argue for expansion of light commercial and resimercial lighting product lines.

How do you see the urban lighting markets changing? Please share your observations in the comment section below.

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German Manufacturer Calls For Design Shift To Delivered Efficacy

A German spotlight manufacturer, ERCO, has issued a public call for the lighting design industry to shift from luminaire efficacy (measured in lumens/Watt) to the “effectiveness of the light in the space” (aka “delivered efficacy,” measured in lux/Watt or foot-candles/Watt).

A German spotlight manufacturer, ERCO, has issued a public call for the lighting design industry to shift from luminaire efficacy (measured in lumens/Watt) to the “effectiveness of the light in the space” (aka “delivered efficacy,” measured in lux/Watt or foot-candles/Watt).

If the lighting design community adopted this approach and metrics, it would begin judging the efficiency of a luminaire by how well it puts light where desired rather than how efficiently it emits light. This isn’t a completely new idea. At the LED chip level, it’s long been promoted that higher lumen density (lumens/light emitting surface) leads to higher “optical control” and higher delivered efficiency. The principle is the same at the luminaire level. This is why there has long been a push for higher output point sources from smaller and smaller emitting areas/sources.

Center beam candle power (CBCP) describes the ability of a luminaire/source to deliver brightness to a location, but it doesn’t describe the efficiency of delivering that brightness. Lx/W (metric system) or fc/W (English units) would describe delivered efficacy of a luminaire.

ERCO is also publicly calling for “a general movement towards the illumination of vertical surfaces over the floor.” This is increasingly being advocated by thought leaders in lighting design, as much work has moved from paper and physical items to digital & vertical computer screens. Of course, as in all things, application matters. ERCO adds, “Historically, walls haven’t been prioritized, although the latest version of the European indoor lighting standard EN 12464-1 now takes it more seriously.”

ERCO further argues that their spotlight uses lower lumen/W, high-powered, small chips that achieve higher lx/W than a COB+reflector combination because the COB+reflector wastes significantly more light.

From the company’s press release:

“ERCO spotlights, by contrast, use lens systems [paired] with single high-powered chips. This tiny but bright point of light is much easier to control into a narrow beam of effective light. ERCO mounts the chips themselves into their own printed circuit boards before pairing them with a bespoke lens design.

Although this construction has nominally lower lm/W values, it brings up to 20 percent more light to the target surface compared to rivals. This means that [designers] who only look at the lm/W values on a luminaire‘s technical data sheet are giving away the potential for sustainable lighting focusing on more light on the target area as well as for energy savings.”

ERCO also points out this can significantly reduce glare, which in many cases is wasted light (spill light). The full ERCO press release can be found here.

Example of lighting walls (vertical plane) rather than floors (horizontal plane).

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Product Monday: StressCrete’s Decorative Streetlights & Poles Revitalize Main Street

In the Summer of 2021, StressCrete provided a turn-key solution to help revitalize Main Street in Fredericksburg, Texas, a small town in Texas Hill Country.

In the Summer of 2021, StressCrete provided a turn-key solution to help revitalize Main Street in Fredericksburg, Texas, a small town in Texas Hill Country. The solution combined:

The small town of Fredericksburg, in Texas Hill Country, revitalized its Main Street using 30 sets of decorative streetlights and light poles, from StressCrete.

  • 30’ Washington poles with flag holders, banner arms, and flowerpot-holders;
  • K807 Doral Sr. Pendants for the roadway; and
  • twin K707 Doral Jr. Pendants for pedestrian sidewalks.

30 sets of the decorative luminaires and poles were carefully paired by StressCrete Group and its partners: Wesco (distributor) and FAPCo (rep). Unique features of the decorative streetlight & pole solution include:

  • Pole Adders for increased decorative options:
    • Flag Holders
    • Banner Arms
    • Flowerpot Holders
    • GFIs
  • Dark-sky performance – zero uplight
  • 3000K for visual comfort
  • Turn-Key solution provided in partnership with the distributor, rep, and contractor
  • Efficient photometrics utilizing existing pole locations and city infrastructure

To achieve the desired aesthetic look, additional engineering work was required to ensure adequate strength in the poles to accommodate all of the additional loading. WESCO, FAPCo, StressCrete Group, and the contractor provided a complete solution that delivers adequate light levels, utilized existing pole locations, accommodated existing city infrastructure, provided all of the required banner, flag, and flowerpot decoration mountings, and still achieved the desired improved aesthetic. The City of Fredericksburg now enjoys a renewed sense of pride in their Main Street and is now planning to extend the revitalization to other areas of the city.

Read the full case study here.

 

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Nearly All Mental Health Disorders Correlate With Circadian Rhythm Disruption

University of California, Irvine (UCI) researchers conducted a thorough examination of peer-reviewed literature on the most prevalent mental health disorders and found that circadian rhythm disruption (CRD) is present in nearly all of them. However, correlation is not causation, so it is not clear if the mental disorders cause circadian disruption, if circadian disruption causes mental disorders or both in a positive feedback loop.

University of California, Irvine (UCI) researchers conducted a thorough examination of peer-reviewed literature on the most prevalent mental health disorders and found that circadian rhythm disruption (CRD) is present in nearly all of them. However, correlation is not causation, so it is not clear if the mental disorders cause circadian disruption, if circadian disruption causes mental disorders or both in a positive feedback loop.

Pierre Baldi, UCI Distinguished Professor of computer science, and Amal Alachkar, neuroscientist and professor of teaching in UCI’s Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences.

The most common mental disorders were found to correlate with circadian disruption, including: anxiety, autism, schizophrenia, Tourette syndrome, ADHD, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, food addiction, and Parkinson’s disease.

Circadian rhythms are intrinsically sensitive to light/dark cues, so they can be easily disrupted by light exposure at night, and the level of disruption appears to be gender-dependent and changes with age. One example is a hormonal response to CRD felt by pregnant women; both the mother and the fetus can experience clinical effects from CRD and chronic stress.

The researchers explored the interplay of circadian rhythms and mental disorders with gender. For instance, Tourette syndrome is present primarily in males, and Alzheimer’s disease is more common in females by a ratio of roughly two-to-one.

Age also is an important factor, according to scientists, as CRD can affect neurodevelopment in early life in addition to leading to the onset of aging-related mental disorders among the elderly.

To address causal attribution, the UCI-led team suggests an examination of CRD at the molecular level using transcriptomic (gene expression) and metabolomic technologies in mouse models. The researchers believe that if the experiments were conducted in a systematic way with respect to age, gender, and brain areas to investigate circadian molecular rhythmicity before and during disease progression, it would help the mental health research community identify potential biomarkers, causal relationships, and novel therapeutic targets and avenues.

This project involved scientists from UCI’s Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, Department of Computer Science, Department of Neurobiology and Behavior, and Institute for Genomics and Bioinformatics; as well as UCLA’s Oppenheimer Center for Neurobiology of Stress and Resilience and Goodman-Luskin Microbiome Center. The National Institutes of Health provided financial support.

You can read the full article published in the Nature journal Translational Psychiatry, here.

 

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Energy Efficiency Tax Deductions Expanded By The Inflation Reduction Act

The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) of 2022 was signed into law on August 16, 2022. Among the provisions included in this bill is the expansion of the Section 179D tax deduction for building energy efficiency. Thousands of commercial building owners have utilized the 179D tax deduction since its inception in 2005, and this expansion potentially allows for many more to not only utilize the deduction but also claim larger amounts than previously available.

The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) of 2022 was signed into law on August 16, 2022. Among the provisions included in this bill is the expansion of the Section 179D tax deduction for building energy efficiency. Thousands of commercial building owners have utilized the 179D tax deduction since its inception in 2005, and this expansion potentially allows for many more to not only utilize the deduction but also claim larger amounts than previously available.

Under the Energy Policy Act (EPAct) of 2005, Section 179D allows for energy efficient investments in new and existing buildings to qualify for immediate tax deductions up to $1.88 per square foot through the 2022 tax year. Eligible projects include those related to interior lighting, HVAC, and building envelope. The 179D deduction was made permanent as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021. Owners of commercial buildings can utilize the 179D deduction for building projects completed since January 1, 2006. Owners in all major building categories are utilizing the deduction, including warehouse, industrial, retail, office, hospitality, and restaurant chains.

The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 includes numerous updates to the 179D deduction, which take effect on January 1, 2023. Notable updates include:

  • Deduction levels up to $5.00 per square foot – the qualified deduction range for projects meeting prevailing wage and apprenticeship standards will be between $2.50 and $5.00 per square foot, depending on the building’s energy efficiency level. For projects that do not meet prevailing wage and apprenticeship standards, the deduction level range will be between $0.50 and $1.00 per square foot.
  • Inclusion of not-for-profits, instrumentalities and Tribal Government buildings – Designers of energy systems in these buildings are now allowed to claim the 179D deduction for qualifying projects.
  • Deduction reset – currently, the maximum 179D deduction can be taken once over the life of the building. With the passage of this new law, the maximum deduction would now be available every three years on a commercial building and every four years on a government, instrumentality, not-for-profit, or Tribal Government building.

With the growth of e-commerce, many new distribution centers / warehouses have been built in the United States. This is an excellent category for large EPAct tax deductions which are based on square footage. Under the IRA a 1 million-square-foot distribution center could qualify for a $5 million tax deduction.

With warehouse lighting projects, facility managers are required to understand which items are picked more frequently. One strategy is to use sensor-controlled digital fixtures and organize the aisles so that the most frequently picked items are all in the same aisles with the easiest access. With this technique, large portions of the warehouse can be kept dark, meaning virtually no lighting-related electric costs are incurred. Such retrofits can qualify for EPAct 179D deductions.

Another category of commercial buildings is hospitals. For the first time effective January 1, 2023, all hospitals can generate 179D tax benefits. For-profit hospitals and government hospitals (for designers) have also been eligible for 179D tax benefits.  Now, the largest hospital category, tax-exempt hospitals, can generate 179D designer benefits.

With the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, companies are now positioned to monetize the 179D deduction in a greater capacity than ever before. The increased deduction levels lead to a quicker payback and improved return-on-investment (ROI) for distribution center owners who are considering installing energy efficient equipment. For designers, the deduction can now be used on energy efficient designs for non-profit, instrumentality, and Tribal government buildings. The increase in potential tax savings allows companies to fuel further energy efficient upgrades and improvements.

Read the full article in FacilitiesNet.com here.

 

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US DOE Releases Industrial Sector Decarbonization Agenda

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) released its “Industrial Decarbonization Roadmap” a comprehensive report identifying four key pathways to reduce industrial emissions in American manufacturing, on September 7, 2022.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) released its “Industrial Decarbonization Roadmap” a comprehensive report identifying four key pathways to reduce industrial emissions in American manufacturing, on September 7th. The roadmap emphasizes the urgency of dramatically cutting carbon emissions and pollution from the industrial sector and presents a staged research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) agenda for industry and government. DOE also announced a $104 million funding opportunity to advance industrial decarbonization technologies. These announcements are in addition to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law ($62 billion) and the Inflation Reduction Act ($10 billion for clean energy manufacturing tax credits and $5.8 billion for industrial facilities). It also seeks to increase the protection of fenceline communities with new monitoring and screening near industrial facilities.

The industrial sector is among the most difficult to decarbonize. In 2021, the industrial sector accounted for one-third of all domestic greenhouse gas emissions, more than the annual emissions of 631 million gasoline-fueled passenger vehicles. DOE’s Industrial Decarbonization Roadmap focuses on five energy-intensive sectors where industrial decarbonization efforts can have the greatest impact. The roadmap outlines a plan with four pathways to reduce emissions across these sectors. These key sectors, iron and steel; cement and concrete; food and beverage; chemical manufacturing; and petroleum refining account for over 50% of the energy-related CO2 emissions in the industrial sector. The four pathways include:

  • Energy efficiency: The most cost-effective option for near-term reductions of greenhouse gas emissions includes smart manufacturing and advanced data analytics to increase energy productivity in manufacturing processes.
  • Industrial electrification: Leveraging advancements in low-carbon electricity from both grid and onsite renewable generation sources will be critical to decarbonization efforts. Examples include electrification of process heat using induction or heat pumps.
  • Low carbon fuels, feedstocks, and energy sources (LCFFES): LCFFES efforts involve substituting low-and no-carbon fuel and feedstocks, including using green hydrogen, biofuels, and bio feedstocks.
  • Carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS): CCUS decarbonization efforts include permanent geologic storage as well as developing processes to use captured CO2 to manufacture new materials.Energy efficiency: The most cost-effective option for near-term reductions of greenhouse gas emission includes smart manufacturing and advanced data analytics to increase energy productivity in manufacturing processes.

The roadmap also provides recommendations for RD&D investment opportunities and near- and long-term actions the industry and the government can take to achieve deep decarbonization, including:

  • Advance early-stage RD&D: Further applied science necessary for net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
  • Invest in multiple process strategies: Continue parallel pathways of electrification, efficiency, low carbon fuels, CCUS, and alternative approaches.
  • Scale through demonstrations: Support demonstration testbeds to accelerate and de-risk deployment.
  • Address process heating: Most industrial emissions come from fuel combustion for heat.
  • Integrate solutions: Focus on systems impact of carbon reduction technologies on the supply chain.
  • Conduct modeling/systems analyses: Expand the use of lifecycles and techno-economic analyses.

Concept papers are due by 5:00pm ET on October 12, 2022; full applications are due December 20, 2022, by 5:00pm ET. To apply to this FOA, applicants must register with and submit application materials through EERE Exchange.

The full DOE roadmap can be read here.

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Interview With NexGen Power Systems’ CEO About Their Game-Changing Driver Technology

David had the pleasure of interviewing the CEO & co-Founder of NexGen Power Systems, Dr. Dinesh Ramanathan, about NexGen’s ground-breaking, power system technology, and their higher-performance LED drivers.

I had the pleasure of interviewing the CEO & co-Founder of NexGen Power Systems, Dr. Dinesh Ramanathan, about NexGen’s ground-breaking power system technology and their higher-performance LED drivers.

Shiller: First, I want to thank you for agreeing to speak with me, today. Maybe a good place to start is a brief description of NexGen Power Systems.

Ramanathan: Sure. NexGen Power Systems is a vertically integrated company that makes power systems which are very efficient, very small, very lightweight, and very environmentally friendly. The way we do this is we have three technology cornerstones on which we have built our technology. And these three technologies have been put together to allow us to make a power platform. That power platform is then applied to each one of the verticals that we end up serving. From a power systems perspective, the three key properties of what we do are our transistor, which is GaN on GaN, vertical gallium nitride power transistor. The second is our Merlin Power Engine, which basically has software and algorithms which allow the power supply and power system to work at one megahertz plus switching frequency. And the third is innovations that we have done on mechanical and thermal designs, which allow us to operate these power systems at the thermal boundary, which means we make them as small as we potentially can, and still make sure that they don’t get too hot.

Shiller: How was the technology received at LightFair? Did the lighting industry react to your value proposition, and do you think it understood your value proposition?

Ramanathan: They did, and this was our first time at LightFair, so we had a few things to learn, ourselves. But the overarching theme that we encountered was that everybody that is making LED lighting fixtures is looking for their drivers to become smaller, more efficient, and more lightweight. So that kind of fell directly in with our value proposition. That’s what we do. Now, they are not as savvy about the technology that goes into making the systems smaller, more efficient, and lighter weight. But what they care about is the outcome, which is making sure that the LED drivers that we put out into the marketplace are smaller, more efficient, and lighter weight.

Shiller: So a great black box is good enough for them.

Ramanathan: Yes. And that was the learning for us, because we were trying to explain how the technology works internally. What makes it smaller. And I don’t think that they care that much about the details of what goes in. What they care about is what they’re getting out from it, which is perfect because we can provide the solution that the customer wants without complicating their lives too much.

Shiller: The most striking thing I remember from our conversation at LightFair was that your vertical GaN transistors create drivers that are 6% more efficient, enabling a 250% increase in lumen output within the same size luminaire or smaller. And that’s a remarkable increase in light output. And I’d like to unpack that a little bit. Can you explain how your vertical GaN transistors create higher frequency switching and the 6% higher efficiency while also being smaller? I mean, it’s a lot going on.

Ramanathan: Let’s take them one step at a time. So fundamentally, from a 10,000 foot view, what tends to typically happen when you run power systems at higher switching frequencies is you shrink the size of all the passive elements that are there in a power supply. The passive elements are inductors, capacitors, transformers, all these basic elements become smaller. They become smaller because the total amount of energy that is now being transferred from the primary side to the secondary side in a circuit has become smaller with the higher switching frequency.

Shiller: The area under each curve, if you will?

Ramanathan: Yes, the area under each switching cycle is much smaller. You only need small amounts of inductors and capacitors to transfer energy from the primary to the secondary. So you don’t need as much local storage as you previously did, when there was more energy per cycle. Another very important thing that also happens is the filter that you need for conductive electromagnetic emissions becomes smaller. Why? Again, for the same reason, there’s only a small amount of energy that you’re transmitting per cycle. That’s the energy that you have to filter for any noise that gets injected into the AC line. For radiated emissions, we have a little heat spreader that we put around the system to make sure that the heat is uniformly distributed, that also acts as our EMI shield. So using that feature, we are able to make the entire system much smaller and also be able to bypass all of the constraints that are typically imposed on systems like this.

Shiller: That’s a great explanation with the frequency. But the next level up where the 6% improvement in driver efficiency enables a 250% improvement in light output. Is there a way to break that down? How much of that’s due to reduced heat versus reduced size?

Ramanathan: Right. So the way to think about how we’re able to produce more light is actually to do an apples-to-apples comparison. So it’s all about size. If you take a look at how small we can make the LED driver and then you look at how much power is actually generated by any other LED driver in that same form factor. Because we are able to reduce the size by roughly 60%, we can actually produce in that smaller form factor the same amount of energy by something that’s two times as big.

Let’s take an example. So let’s say our driver had a volume of two cubic inches. If we were able to put out, let’s say, ten watts of power. The competition is using four cubic inches to put out the same ten watts of power. So in four cubic inches, we could actually put out twice the amount of light or twice the amount of power.

Shiller: So because you’ve halved the volume, you’ve essentially doubled the power density, and halved the thermal density.

Ramanathan: Exactly right. So the 6% improvement in efficiency has to be there, because otherwise we can’t shrink the size by 50%. And the way to think about a 6% increase in efficiency is to look at the losses and look at the fact that we’re actually cutting the losses down by roughly 50%.

Shiller: That occurred to me. So you’re going from roughly 15% losses to say 8 or 9%, maybe?

Ramanathan: Yes. We’re cutting 15 point worth of loss to roughly 8 or 9 points of loss.

Shiller:  Which is roughly a 40% reduction in losses?

Ramanathan: It’s more than 40% of the overall loss that’s actually eliminated.

So these two mechanisms, reduced heat and reduced size, put together is what allows us to generate a lot more light in the same form factor. And I think the key issue is to look at the form factor.

I’ll give you another example from the data center applications that we’re working in, where our power supply size is fixed. Because we can provide more power density, we can actually give twice the amount of power in the same form factor. And if you’re able to give twice the amount of power in the same form factor that our customers are looking for, then they can deploy more server racks. The same thing happens in the LED lighting space.

Shiller:  So, it’s hard to separate the reduced heat and size because one enables the other and then they compound. Can you elaborate a little bit on the high frequency transistors reducing EMI. Can you talk a little bit more about the consequences, how it eliminates a lot of components?

Ramanathan: So this is a two-step process. First, because of the technology we’re bringing to the table, we’re actually able to shrink the size of all the components. The actual number of components isn’t shrinking. They’re actually becoming slightly larger. And the reason for them becoming slightly larger is because we have an external gate driver outside the Merlin Power Engine, which is what we use to drive our gallium nitride transistor. Most of the controllers that you will see in the marketplace, especially in the LED space, they have integrated all these drivers into one chip because they have made these ASICs. We haven’t because it’s new technology. So, the next step in our program is to take some of these circuits that we have had to put outside and actually build it into ASICs. And when we do that, that reduces the number of components that we have outside. It will also allow us to make sure that the design is much more cost efficient than it is today. It’s already cost efficient primarily because it shrank the size of all these components. But now we’re actually able to integrate some of those external components into our controllers. And then that causes the next wave of cost reductions that we can bring to the table.

Shiller: At LightFair, you shared that the company recently emerged from stealth mode and that you were pursuing lighting, automotive and computer hardware industries. Is that an accurate statement?

Ramanathan: That’s correct. So we’re pursuing LED drivers. We’re looking at power supplies for high end laptops, for data centers, and for electric vehicles. So you’re exactly right.

Shiller: Circling back to the ASIC conversation. When you develop ASIC drivers, do you see them being small enough for use within lamps, or what most people call bulbs, because that’s how they can get drivers into a screw shell, for example?

Ramanathan: We fundamentally believe that they will become much, much smaller than they are right now. And we do that by integrating everything that’s outside into an ASIC. There are a lot of components that we have outside, primarily voltage adjusters and things along these lines which don’t need to be outside a chip at all. They should actually be inside a chip. The semiconductor industry makes ASICs that are specific for lighting applications. That’s what we intend to do with our control engine. Now, all those engines typically run between 60 and 100 kilohertz. Our ASICs will basically be operating these switches at a megahertz-plus switching frequency. That’s the next way for us to bring costs down and also shrink the size. The other thing to also point out is that one megahertz is where we are starting today. From one megahertz, we can go to 1.25, 1.5, 1.75. 2. And at each one of these levels, the components that we talk about shrink in size. So that’s an advantage that we bring to the table.

Shiller: So that’s a peek at your roadmap, right?

Ramanathan: Yes, we just keep going. To some extent, we have to wait for some other components to catch up to our increasing switching frequency. So, for instance, the magnetics have to catch up with where we are. So if you’d asked the same question about four years ago, most magnetics would have worked at about one megahertz switching frequency or they would have been characterized up to one megahertz. Today, when you go look at magnetic material, the magnetic suppliers are characterizing them at two and even three megahertz switching. So, we know that as we push the switching frequency further and further up, the magnetics guys are doing their part in making sure that the ecosystem is actually a place where these technologies can come to bear.

Shiller: Can you share a little about which aspects of your manufacturing are occurring in India versus the US?

Ramanathan: Sure. So the way we run our organization is that our transistors, which is the key portion of our technology happens in the United States. Our fab is located in upstate New York. It’s in Syracuse. And it’s a big fab that does both manufacturing, as well as R&D. For us, that key technology that we develop is based in the United States. The rest of the system development front, we do between India and the US. We have a group here in Santa Clara and another group in Southern California. They do most of the prototyping work of some of these really high frequency, advanced designs. And then those designs are taken over by our team in India, that takes and replicates them on various levels. The team in India actually does mechanical design. They also do some of the software work. They do all the EMI work and the full system validation gets done in India. The contract manufacturer that actually builds these systems for us is also based out of India. We took into account some of the geopolitical issues that we’re seeing in the world today.

Shiller: That’s where I was headed next. At LightFair, you referenced an enormous increase in Indian manufacturing that’s occurring with global exports. Would you like to speak to that at all? And whether you see India challenging Chinese dominance in global manufacturing.

Ramanathan: Yes, I think India will, at least based on what we are hearing from our contract manufacturers and others, in India. Their output has gone up significantly. And I’m not telling you anything that is hidden or not known. There have been articles that say that iPhone 13 manufacturing is actually happening in India and it’s being done by Foxconn and other players that do work for Apple. I would consider iPhone 13 one of the most complicated pieces of electronic hardware that gets put together. And if that’s getting done in India at volume, you can understand the sophistication that’s actually at play at this point in time. Our contract manufacturer is increasing their capacity by about 5X, and the reason they’re able to increase it and they’re going 5X is just to make sure that they have the capacity to look at a lot of contract manufacturing that is moving away from China and into India. And an interesting part is, our contract manufacturing, for instance, is actually largely owned by a Chinese company. And the conversations with those contract manufacturers tell us that as long as we’re able to get contract manufacturing done in whichever country that makes sense for us, they’ll continue making it in those countries. I think some of the business folks inside China have also realized that having shutdowns and stoppages of manufacturing doesn’t help them. It doesn’t make their customers any happier. So they’re thinking “how do we make sure that our supply chain is as robust as we can?” And that means setting something up outside of China makes perfect sense.

Shiller: The pandemic issues are just one challenge with the Chinese supply chain. There are other geopolitical obstacles growing.

Ramanathan: Yes.

Shiller: What can you share about your commercialization timeline?

Ramanathan: Our full commercialization is going to happen in the fourth quarter of this year, towards the end of this year. And that could possibly slip by a month or so. So I’d say towards the end of this year or very early part of next year is when all our products will actually go into the market. The LED products are a little further advanced compared to the rest of the products, but it’s no more than a month or two. So we expect to start shipping in volume towards the end of this year.

Shiller: Very good. Do you plan to sell your drivers through electronic distributors like Arrow, Mouser or Future? Or through an internal OEM sales organization that you’ll have to build?

Ramanathan: Initially it’ll be an OEM sales organization and most of what we’ve been doing from our marketing and sales approach is a very targeted digital marketing campaign, that we’ve been putting together and that targets very specific customers and very specific engineering organizations, inside those customers. So we expect to end up working with the top 10 to 15 customers in this particular space because we are trying to work our way from top down. Once we get those customers lined up and show them the technology that we’re bringing to the table, then it’s a matter of how to scale that? This becomes when Mouser and all the other distributors kick in.

Shiller: I see all of the benefits for a luminaire maker, but I see even more profound benefits to lamp makers because they are just so much more space constrained and thermally constrained. Can you speak at all to a roadmap or a timeline to benefiting lamp makers as opposed to luminaire makers?

Ramanathan: Yes, so lamp makers are a little trickier, and the reason they are trickier is primarily because cost is one of the primary requirements that they have. So we get to that lamp market once our technology starts to ship in some volumes.

We could even think of taking our our gallium nitride chip and actually making and integrating it into the package that we put together so we can have an ASIC with our gallium nitride all on the same chip. That then gives them the smallest form factor, but that’s at least two years down the road for us. It’ll take roughly 18 months to put our basic product out into the marketplace. Pursuing the lamp market is going to be a function of how small we can make it, and how effective it is for them.

Shiller: Thank you, Dr. Ramanathan, for sharing your exciting technology with our readers.

Download the NexGen whitepaper Miniaturization of LED Drivers with NexGen Vertical GaN Technology here.

 

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Sneak Peek Of Upcoming LightSPEC West Event

The inaugural LightSPEC West event is only nine days away and will be held in Los Angeles, CA. Check out our sneak peek at five interesting presentations

The inaugural LightSPEC West event is only nine days away and will be held in Los Angeles, CA. Here’s a sneak peek at five interesting presentations:

  • Permanent Chaos, Wishful Thinking, and Real Opportunities – the Lighting Industry Today. On September 21, Wendy Davis, a Senior Research Analyst at Guidehouse, and Clifton Stanley Lemon, the LightSPEC West organizer, present a talk addressing the current state of the industry: important economic trends, unrecognized and surprising growth areas, the impact of ESG and regulatory action. They’ll suggest strategies for coping with uncertainty and conflicting data and predictions. They identify emerging research on lighting, views, and daylight that present opportunities for collaboration with architects, advances in occupant health and wellness, increased value for building owners, improvements in environmental quality, and best practices in inclusive design.
  • On September 21, Teal Brogden and Venna Resurreccion of HLB Lighting present a talk entitled Experiencing the Daylight Dynamic. HLB is one of the few lighting firms in the U.S. with a deep and robust practice in daylighting design, and they’ve developed an exemplary practice in integrating daylight with electric light. Their talk will focus on the design process and the many health and wellness benefits of daylight and views through a series of exemplary case studies. Teal and Venna will describe ways in which regenerative lighting design uses daylight first before considering electric light, and how the two can be balanced. They will present data on the impact of views and daylight on real estate value, productivity and other metrics from studies of schools and daylight, and health outcomes from hospital rooms with access to views and daylight. They will also evaluate specific qualities and forms of architecture that provide optimal views and daylight and how these can be put to best use for electric light as well.
  • On September 21, a panel entitled Inclusive Design as a Catalyst for Change will be presented. Moderated by lighting designer Alana Shepherd, founder of the North American Coalition of Lighting Industry Queers (NACLIQ), and including Mariel Taviana Acevdo of Portland, Oregon lighting agency Solus; Archit Jain, principal at Oculus Light Studio; and Thomas Paterson, principal at Lux Populi, the panel will explore a range of tools and actions to address inclusive design: corporate programs, education and training, cross-disciplinary collaboration, and communications strategies.
  • Controls expert and consultant, John Arthur Wilson, will be delivering a talk on September 22, entitled Simplifying Controls and Evolution of Grid-Connected Buildings. This talk will show how building control systems play a vital role past the meter in helping to enable and manage the emerging connected grid and how they can deliver previously unrealized ROI while becoming simpler to understand, justify, install, and operate. He’ll also talk about how lighting controls can drive integration of other building systems in ways that provide ROI on sensor and operational data, aid predictive maintenance, and increase user control and comfort. John Arthur feels that most of the real impact of IoT in buildings is, at least initially, around the control systems. Because lighting controls are the substrate for energy strategies like demand management and occupancy-based approaches. They’re a natural leverage point to facilitate grid-connected buildings. Eventually, we’ll see a grid where buildings produce, consume, and share both energy and data in two directions- to and from the grid and internet.
  • Jay Wratten, Senior Director at WSP will present a talk entitled Beyond Occupancy – Risk Management and Revenue Streams on September 22, in which he will explore investment in smart buildings from the perspective of building owners and operators. He’ll show how smart, integrated building systems not only allow decreased op-ex, by enabling things like predictive maintenance and energy efficiency but can provide operating revenue from increasingly valuable data streams and analytics. He’ll also explore how becoming more involved in building system integration, and data architecture is an increasingly important collaborative role for systems engineers, IT professionals, and lighting designers.

To register for the event, visit the LightSPEC West site here.

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As Chinese Heatwave Eases, Power Restrictions On Factories Are Lifted

The southwestern Chinese province of Sichuan downgraded emergency energy supply measures last week, restoring power to some factories after weeks of rolling blackouts due to a heatwave-driven shortage.

The southwestern Chinese province of Sichuan downgraded emergency energy supply measures last week, restoring power to some factories after weeks of rolling blackouts due to a heatwave-driven shortage.

Weeks of record temperatures above 104o F and a crippling drought strained hydropower generators throughout the region. Rain has increased and temperatures moderated, reducing the energy crisis. “Reservoir water levels are gradually increasing, and the power supply capacity has improved,” the Sichuan government announced last week, adding that the power supply crisis had been “alleviated to a certain extent.”

The region is home to major auto manufacturers, including Toyota in Sichuan and Honda in Chongqing, which said they resumed operations Monday. Apple iPhone manufacturer Foxconn also restarted work at its Sichuan plant, Nikkei reported.

State broadcaster CCTV reported last week that the “general industrial and commercial power consumption in Sichuan province has been fully restored,” adding that energy-intensive industries would resume production once hydropower reservoir levels rose further.

Southern China has recorded its longest continuous period of high temperatures since records began more than 60 years ago, forcing power cuts that have hit the agricultural sector particularly hard.

Power shortages also forced malls in parts of Sichuan and Chongqing to shorten their opening hours, while landscape and subway lighting was switched off, and some households experienced rolling blackouts.

For additional details, read the full MSN article here.

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