Awesome Nerditude: GE Engineer Nick Holonyak Talks about Inventing LEDs


Get ready for some historical awesomesauce — here’s Nick Holonyak, the GE engineer who invented LEDs, waxing poetic about the process, times, and history of the process of inventing light emitting diodes.  This is an awesome 3 minutes!

From an article at GE Lighting:

Holonyak got his PhD in 1954. In 1957, after a year at Bell Labs and a two year stint in the Army, he joined GE’s research lab in Syracuse, New York. GE was already exploring semiconductor applications and building the forerunners of modern diodes called thyristors and rectifiers. At a GE lab in Schenectady, the scientist Robert Hall was trying to build the first diode laser. Hall, Holonyak and others noticed that semiconductors emit radiation, including visible light, when electricity flows through them. Holonyak and Hall were trying to “turn them on,” and channel, focus and multiply the light.

Hall was the first to succeed. He built the world’s first semiconductor laser. Without it, there would be no CD and DVD players today. “Nobody knew how to turn the semiconductor into the laser,” Holonyak says. “We arrived at the answer before anyone else.”

But Hall’s laser emitted only invisible, infrared light. Holonyak spent more time in his lab, testing, cutting and polishing his hand-made semiconducting alloys. In the fall of 1962, he got first light. “People thought that alloys were rough and turgid and lumpy,” he says. “We knew damn well what happened and that we had a very powerful way of converting electrical current directly into light. We had the ultimate lamp.”

Holonyak left GE in 1963 and started teaching at his alma mater, the University of Illinois. Today he is the John Bardeen professor of electrical and computer engineering and physics. He’s collected dozens of top prizes for his work, including the National Medal of Technology and Innovation, theLemelson-MIT Prize, and membership in the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

The red LED “was just the beginning,” he says. “I knew that it was a very powerful thing and that these materials will become a source of white light. I thought it might be a decade. Little did I realize that it would take much longer than that.”

I freaking love Science.

How Big is GE? [Infographic]

I found this infographic about General Electric today that I found pretty interesting – Do YOU know how big GE is and how big it has become?  I didn’t know that it was one of the original 12 companies from the original Dow Jones.

Check out the infographic from PartSelect – I’ve resized it here, but if you click on it the image opens up full-size.

GE is Entering the L-Prize with A Cree-Driven 60W LED Incandescent Replacement Lamp

If you follow the L-Prize competition, you would have noticed an interesting entry that GE is going to be making – and is currently in development.  GE (General Electric, NYSE:GE) is entering a 60W LED replacement lamp using Cree LED emitters as the light source.  This is pretty awesome, if I do say so myself – I’m a fan of Cree (NASDAQ:CREE), and it’s nice to see a company like GE reach across the aisle and ask help from a company that is making some pretty impressive strides in light-emitting diodes.  I was extremely impressed seeing their LMR-4 at LightFair, and in reading of the news of the TrueWhite technology kinda blows the mind when you look at LED research and development to date.

Check out an example of Cree’s TrueWhite Technology – it’s a short video, 1:55 – totally worth your time:

Cree and I disagree a little on the death of incandescents, but disagreement is what drives innovation.  I also disagree with my bestie Greg about throwing things off of balconies.  Innovation.

Ok – now think of what GE could possibly be coming up with using some rocking Cree LEDs?  Will it be another one of those “multi-fingered hand grasping at a blob of milk” lamps?  WHO KNOWS!  At least the light coming from it will look good.  Let’s see what GE does about heat dissipation this time.

Oh – as of right now (Tuesday, July 5, 2011), the L-Prize website is broken.  That’s a little concerning, huh – I mean, being that it’s supposed to be a really important honor and all.

You might be asking yourself – self, what exactly IS the L-Prize?  Well, it’s a competition that is basically driven to “spur lighting manufacturers to develop high-quality, high-efficiency solid-state lighting products to replace the common light bulb.”  Ok, fair enough.  The Department of Energy runs this contest, and the prize for the best 60W incandescent replacement lamp is about ten million buckaroos.  For a PAR38 replacement?  Only five million bones.  Only.

There are requirements for entries into the L-Prize – from the wikipedia article on the L-Prize, since the site ain’t workin’:

More on the L-Prize soon, I’m waiting to hear back from them.

Here’s the initial GE press release about their entry into the L-Prize (also located here):

EAST CLEVELAND, OH (June 30, 2011) : GE Lighting engineers and scientists are developing a 60-watt replacement LED bulb that meets the specifications for the Department of Energy’s Bright Tomorrow Lighting (L Prize) competition. GE recently submitted a Letter of Intent to the Department of Energy to enter the competition.

“The objective of our product research and development is simple,” says Steve Briggs, vice president of marketing and product management, GE Lighting Solutions, LLC. “We exist to create advanced lighting solutions based on customer needs and expectations. Our L Prize journey is inspired by the challenge to deliver advanced technology in a form factor that delivers on consumer expectations. We won’t be the first to submit an L Prize candidate but we believe our solution will more closely match consumer preference for an incandescent look and feel.”

GE has collaborated with Cree to accept the stringent L Prize challenge yet deliver a lamp without remote phosphor, which appears yellow in an unlit state. Cree has designed a custom LED component that features Cree TrueWhite® Technology to deliver superior efficacy and light quality. GE lamp designers incorporated the component into an advanced thermal, optical and electrical system to achieve L Prize performance.

The L Prize is the first government-sponsored technology competition designed to spur lighting manufacturers to develop high-quality, high-efficiency solid-state lighting products to replace the most widely used light bulb in America, the 60-watt incandescent bulb. To learn more about the L Prize competition, visit

GE Invents A CFL/Halogen Lamp?! Wait, What?

I just got a press release on a new upcoming lamp from GE.  This image was in the press release:

Everybody, I think we just saw the results of a drunken lamp party in which compact fluorescent lamps and halogen lamps learned how to be sentient and mate, producing the above (and below) results:

I am so confused and curious.  Let’s hope I see this at LDI.  Apparently the 15-20W CFL/Halogen hybrid lamp is supposed to replace the output from a 60W incandescent.  The halogen capsule inside?  It apparently only lights up until the CFL is at full output.  Oh, also – they claim a low percentage of Mercury (or HYDRARGYRUM, for those in the know).

The press release from GE – and since I don’t normally post press releases, you know that I find it interesting if it makes the site!

CLEVELAND, OH (October 20, 2010)—Consumers searching for the latest hybrid can soon look beyond their local car dealership. Starting in 2011, GE Lighting brings hybrid technology to the lighting aisle in the form of a unique, new incandescent-shaped light bulb that combines the instant brightness of halogen technology with the energy efficiency and longer rated life of compact fluorescent (CFL) technology.

The initial product launch will bring U.S. and Canadian consumers GE Reveal® and GE Energy Smart® Soft White varieties that offer significantly greater instant brightness than current covered CFLs, while preserving the energy efficiency and long life attributes that have elevated CFLs as a lighting staple in many households.

“When you look at our prototype incandescent-shaped bulb with that little halogen capsule nestled inside our smallest compact fluorescent tube, you’re seeing a byproduct of our intense customer focus and our innovation mindset,” says Kristin Gibbs, general manager of North American consumer marketing, GE Lighting. “We’ve constantly improved the initial brightness of our CFLs but customers haven’t been wholly satisfied. This is a giant leap forward.”

The halogen capsule inside GE’s new hybrid halogen-CFL bulb comes on instantly, allowing the bulb to operate noticeably brighter in less than a half a second. The capsule shuts off once the CFL comes to full brightness.

GE scientists engineered the bulb to operate with an exceptionally low level of mercury: 1 mg. Currently available CFLs range from 1.5 mg to 3.5 mg. The hybrid halogen-CFL bulbs will be RoHS compliant and offer eight times the life of incandescent bulbs (8,000 hours vs. 1,000 hours). Less frequent replacement due to longer light bulb life can reduce landfill waste.

First to launch will be 15-watt and 20-watt hybrid halogen-CFL bulbs that are considered viable replacements for 60-watt and 75-watt incandescent bulbs, respectively. Retail pricing and specific retail store availability will be announced in the coming months.

OLED Demo – Hey, Should I Get A Hole Punch?

GE’s research lab working with OLEDs made a short video of some interesting OLED durability “tests” for all to see.  Now every solid state device needs to come with a hole punch and some scissors so I can cut light into pieces.

<chirp, chirp>

I’ll be right back, I have to run to the joke store and return that glistening piece of crap I just laid on you.  Check out this video:

Smart Grids Apparently Play Music

I just saw this commercial – and I got a kick out of it!  Isn’t that enough to post something that might crack you up?

GE Loses AAA Credit Rating

An article at Huffington Post announced that General Electric lost its top AAA credit rating.  GE has been struggling with credit issues for a while now, and the new AA+ credit rating (down from AAA) means it will be more expensive for GE to raise money.  From the article:

The credit rating agency lowered GE’s long-term debt ratings to ‘AA+’ from ‘AAA’ Thursday, a one notch reduction that markets had long expected. The move means it will be more expensive for GE to raise money in the credit markets.

Company shares rose $1.01, or nearly 12 percent, to $9.50 in morning trading after the announcement. Shares had lost about half their value this year, pushed down by investors frightened by the grim outlook for GE’s lending arm, GE Capital.

Many analysts had expected a much deeper ratings cut, given GE Capital’s struggles with rising loan losses and fears that it more write-downs are looming. And while GE has said defending its coveted credit rating was a priority, CEO Jeff Immelt has recently said he was prepared to fund the company at a lower level.

“I don’t believe GE is surprised to see this,” said Dilip Sarangan, an analyst with Frost & Sullivan.

GE’s capital division, if it were operating solo, would have been given a much lower “A” rating – but thankfully that’s not the case.  Jeff Immelt, GE’s CEO, said that they will be maintaining the discipline of a “AAA” rated company.

Check out the original article here.

Next Generation Luminaires Competition Winners

The Next Generation Luminaires competition has chosen the winners of the 2008 contest in their three categories:  Best In Class Market-ready, Recognized Market-ready, and Noteworthy Emerging.  The winners all have solid work – there were three winners in the Best In Class category, and I’ve listed their products below.  Architectural Lighting Online had an article on the winners, and comments on the judging process:

A panel of 14 judges made up of architectural lighting design professionals selected the winners from the 68 entries. The submissions were evaluated for color appearance, color rendering, application efficiency, serviceability, appropriate illuminance, appearance, and style. “I think you had the best of the best lighting designers in North America reviewing these products,” notes NGL judge Avraham Mendall Mor, partner at Lightswitch Architectural’s Chicago office and president of the Chicago section of the IESNA. “I also think it was amazing how each one of us had one particular issue they were searching for an answer to—I was looking for maintainable products, while some were concerned with glare, others with illuminance.”

The three winning products in the Best In Class Market-ready category were Journée Lighting’s AZARA LED Luminaire, WynonaLED’s Step03, and GE’s Immersion LED Jewelry Case Lighting.

Journée’s Azara LED:

The AZARA LED luminaire, by Journée Lighting, features a bold aesthetic design and innovative features, providing an attractive and efficient alternative to traditional light sources. AZARA’s housing is sculpted to not only appeal to the eye aesthetically, but also perform as an active heat sink.

Available Options:

3000K, 4000K, and 6500K CCT
12° and 27° beam angles
6W, 8W, and 10W Watt Adjust brightness setting options
24V Journée monorail or monopoint canopy

Luminaire Testing:

Light Output: 249 lumens
Power: 6.9 watts
Efficacy: 36.1 lm/W
CCT: 2911K CRI: 85



WynonaLED’s Step03:

Winona LEDâ„¢ has developed a series of step lights with features that put these luminaires at the head of their class. The STEP03 provides great lateral distribution, integral drivers, and the flexibility to modify. Three different step light styles provide the perfect solution for your next step lighting application.

Luminaire Testing:

Light Output: 454 lumens
Power: 21.7 watts
Efficacy: 21.3 lm/W
CCT: 2996 CRI: 71

Available Options:

Emergency lighting
Dry and wet location options
Custom paint finishes available



GE’s Immersion LED Jewelry Case Lighting:

With GE Immersionâ„¢ LED Jewelry Display Case Lighting, your cases will be lit with bright, uniform light that brings out dramatically more sparkle than competing fluorescent systems. Combined with the added benefits of long life, advanced thermal management, worry-free maintenance and the reliability of GE, this efficient LED system will continue to dazzle customers for many years to come.

Luminaire Testing:

Light Output: 1494 lumens
Power: 42.5 watts
Efficacy: 35.1 lm/W
CCT: 3515K CRI: 72

Available Options:

CCT: 3500K or 4200K
Lengths: Ranging from 24″ – 72″



Thanks, ArchLighting and NGL!

GE Profit Down 46%

Uh oh – General Electric’s fourth quarter earnings were down 46%, from a Huffington Post article a handful of days ago.  Even though they’re reporting massive losses, they claim they’re still quite liquid and able to pay out dividends.  Overall, GE is down about 22% from last year’s earnings.

From Huffington Post’s article:

GE’s businesses touch on most sectors of an economy mired in a recession, from medical equipment and real estate to TV stations. And its longtime profit engine, GE Capital, has seen profits sapped as businesses and consumers limit borrowing or default.

“The environment in total is very tough,” GE’s Chief Executive Jeff Immelt told analysts on an investor conference call.

Shares of the Fairfield, Conn.-based company fell $1.45, or 10.8 percent to $12.03 Friday, after hitting a 52-week low of $11.87 earlier in the session.

After paying preferred dividends, GE’s earnings totaled $3.65 billion, or 35 cents per share for the three months ended Dec. 31, down from $6.7 billion, or 66 cents per share, a year earlier. Those results included $1.5 billion in charges from a restructuring of GE Capital and increased reserves. But they also included a significant tax boost of $1.38 billion.

Stained Glass Light Bulb – “Lamp,” to the Professional

When I flew home on Christmas Day, among the gifts my wonderful wife had bought me, this little gem was in my stocking – a “stained glass” medium screw base lamp from GE that casts a great bunch of color on the shade and adjoining wall in my office.  It’s 25 watts, one of the few incandescent lamps in my house (sometimes you just have to have tungsten!) and adds a great feel to my office at night.

Check it out on Amazon – the Stained Glass Lamp from GE!  It’s around five bucks.

Some pictures of my office, with the lamp in the fixture on my bookshelves: