Crosswalk, High Tech Style

A while ago, I wrote about Art Lebedev’s idea for night time pedestrian crosswalk illumination – Air Crosswalk is being implemented in a town in Russia.  I hope to find some pictures of the installation once it’s in.  I found another great idea for crosswalk illumination, this time from designer Seungkyun Woo – “School Zone” is an LED walkway concept that can be attached anywhere, as it’s prefab, and can be integrated into the existing crosswalk signal lighting so that the LEDs respond to the signal.  Since the unit is portable and prefab, it might also make a nice temporary walkway addition to outdoor events.

Lighting 101: HID Lamps

Have you ever been out shopping for replacement lamps for your home and saw acronyms like HID, HPS, MSR, and HMI?  These acronyms refer to lamps that are different than your typical household incandescent with a filament – HID stands for High Intensity Discharge lamp, and refers to lamps that utilize an electric arc to create light.  HID sources are typically very, very bright, and have a very high color temperature on average.  Color rendering indexes, and correlated color temperatures are all usually very high in HID sources.

High intensity discharge lamps don’t have a filament, and do not function like an incandescent lamp except for in the fact that they require electricity.  As a matter of fact, they’re about twice as efficient than incandescent Tungsten Halogen filamented sources, typically.  Once the lamp is ignited, it burns consistently and clean during its arc phase.

Take a look at this image:

HID sources usually consist of a few basic parts – an arc tube, arc electrodes, a metal salt, and a gas, usually of the halogen or chalcogen family on the periodic table.  Once the arc is ignited, the gas and metal salts heat and evaporate to a plasma phase, which greatly increases the light output of the lamp, and also makes it use less electricity.  HID lamps need a ballast to both start and maintain the arc that occurs in the arc chamber (the glass envelope part of the lamp) – to start, the ballast sends a high voltage across the arc gap, which refers to the distance between the electrodes.  Depending on the lamp, this could be as little as 500V or as much as 3500V.  Once the arc is established, the ballast drops the voltage down to a “maintenance” voltage, maintaining the arc and keeping the lamp lit.

HID laps are similar to welding – they put off high amounts of very high color temperature light that can hurt your eyes if you look directly at them.  HID lamps are sort-of like controlled welding in a way, except the deposit that welders make is not quite how HID lamps operate.  HID lamps are made of all sorts of chemistries, from Mercury Vapor lamps (the streetlights that are extremely white/blue), Sodium Vapor lamps (very yellow/amerish light), to Medium-Source Rare-Earth or Hydrargyrum Medium-Arc Iodide lamps.

What?  Hydrargyrum?  Did someone burp?  Hydrargyrum is another name for Mercury.

HID sources are used all over the place.  When a need for wide area lighting is required, HIDs do the trick – next time you’re at your favorite big-box retailer, look up and see what’s lighting the store.  Fluorescent tubes are HID lamps, and they are found everywhere.  HIDs are used in Film and TV Lighting, moving lights, and anywhere that a bright, consistent and efficient source of light is needed.  They’re everywhere – the World Trade Center site, atop the Luxor in Vegas, in some car headlamps, video projectors, and in millions of other places.

Handling of HID sources takes some extra care; when changing out an HID source, the best bet is to use some sort of face shield and eye protection while it is still warm.  As the lamp cools down, the lamp is even more fragile than in its cooled state, and could possibly explode in your face if you weren’t careful.  Never look at the source, as mentioned before – this can cause overall blindness and loss of night vision.  HID sources are usually high voltage sources too when in operation.  Take extra care!

Light Way, the Fiber-Optic Illuminated Baseboard

This is an interesting concept – a baseboard that provides a little illumination on the walls and floor in dark spaces while being low profile and relatively simply.  Light Way, which I first saw on Yanko’s website, is all fiber-optic and takes light from a light pump somewhere in the installation and delivers it to the baseboard lighting devices.

Light Way is made of extruded aluminum and comes in several powder-coated finishes, including a primer finish.  This is supposed to be a solution for places where you can’t have lighting per code, and in recessed places where placing a luminaire is difficult.

Light Way was designed by Hayley Rosen, Dan Tafe, Dan Fichter, and Keshia Stole.

Parylene – Saviour to LEDs

I wish I had a picture of a beagle dressed up in a super hero outfit with Parylene on the front of the outfit – that would be perfect.

Parylene, an industrial coating for LED cards, circuit boards and all other things that are LED related but need protection from the elements, has been rocking and rolling lately without any of the problems that standard conformal coatings have.  Conformal coatings are things like acrylics, silicones, urethanes, and other chemicals that are applied to LED gear to resist UV wear, corrosion, and weather beating.

One major problem with the coatings that are applied to equipment to protect them from the elements is an uneven coat that might even have completely unprotected sections due to running, meniscuses setting, and hard-to-reach areas within the equipment that the spray application can’t reach.  Spray methods also add weight to the piece, and with a billboard or other outdoor signage this can pose a major problem.  The parylene coating is not only UV resistant but heat resistant, light, and extremely thin.

Parylene is applied in a vapor deposition process.  Basically it’s like this – the raw parylene material is heated to a gas, heated again to break it down even further, and then introduced to whatever it’s going to be protecting, all in a closed system.  The parylene is so small on the molecular level that it can get into all surfaces, nooks, crannies, and crevices to truly protect what it’s protecting.  Its polymeric bonding keeps it light and conformal.

Check out a comparison of a circuit board without parylene and with parylene below.

No parylene:

Parylene coated:

Process image – read more about the process at LEDs Magazine’s article.

OLEDs and Their Market Saturation

If you’ve been watching the wire lately, you would have noticed a large spike in OLED production, news, and marketing.  From backlights to specialized architectural illumination, OLEDs are trying hard to find their way into the commercial market.  Analysts project that over the next ten years or so, we’ll see a very large spike in their usage and production, especially in the backlighting market.  The chart below shows some of those projected numbers:

According to a report published by NanoMarkets, OLED Lighting Markets 2008, OLED lighting markets will grow from approximately $2.8 million this year to around $6 billion in 2015.  That’s a pretty enormous jump – I hope that the market can live up to the standard to which it’s about to be held.

The second cousin of OLED, the ILED (inorganic LED) is based on a semiconductor design, whereas the OLED is attached to a sheet-type substrate.  ILEDs are most like spotlights, and OLEDs are more like washlights in that respect – manufacturing OLEDs in large format is a major engineering and manufacturing challenege to which an answer is being sought in order to get OLEDs further into the market.  ILEDs are burning the trail into the market for OLEDs, and as soon as certain issues are addressed, we’ll see OLEDs in a more standard capacity for solid state lighting.

An interesting future prediction is what’s going to happen to non-LED sources once OLEDs and ILEDs hit the market in full strength.  From the article at LEDs Magazine:

Most development activity is being targeted at the 1000-nit brightness level, generally considered to be the entry point for general-purpose lighting (an attractive opportunity for OLED lighting simply because the addressable market is so large). About 24 billion light bulbs for general illumination are sold worldwide every year.

But while the demand for lighting will increase as development proceeds in Asia, Africa and Latin America, it also seems likely that fewer bulbs, tubes and lighting arrays will be bought, simply because these lighting products are achieving longer lifetimes. As a result, NanoMarkets expects the addressable market to fall to about 10 billion units by the end of the forecast period. This represents OLED lighting sales for the general-purpose lighting market of about $1.1 m in 2008, growing to almost $2.3 bn in 2015.

I’m very interested in how this technology is going to continue to impact the industry and more specifically, design within the industry.  If you have insight on this subject as it matures, please post in the comments or contact me.

BARCO and Magic Monkey Create an Architectural Fairy Tale

Barco, Electrabel, and Magic Monkey put on a display that just closed yesterday – a magical display of LED wonderment and architectural beauty.  Check out the press release from Barco:

Barco, a global leader in LED technology, is proud to announce that its creative LED MiSTRIP has been chosen for the Electrabel Nights in Brussels. From 28 November to 28 December 2008, the Grand Place is the setting for a spectacular sound and light spectacle designed and produced by Magic Monkey and showing Barco’s MiSTRIP at its best.

Every year in December, the city of Brussels organizes Winter Wonders, a special Christmas event that entices about three million visitors who come and enjoy the extensive cultural program and the Christmas market. For this special occasion, Electrabel, Belgium’s main energy producer and distributor, organizes the Electrabel Nights on the Grand Place.

This year’s design transforms the Grand Place into a magical forest, complete with mythical animal sounds. Groups of MiSTRIP masts are scattered all around the twenty meter high Christmas tree, giving the audience the chance to walk around as if they are actually in the forest. The masts can be seen from every corner of the Grand Place fully integrating the public in a 3D performance.

To complete this experience, each mast is also equipped with 2 speakers. The soundtrack, specially composed for this occasion, plays simultaneously with the MiSTRIP video, turning the show into a sensorial experience for everyone passing by. “This show is a new cutting edge step in the architectural lighting by integrating the actual environment and including the public into the show”, says Marc Largent from Magic Monkey. “Even though the centre of Brussels is extremely busy during the Christmas period, the Grand Place offers a heaven of tranquility for the visitors to relax while watching this modern fairy tale.”

“Barco’s MiSTRIP allows us to push our designs as far as possible,” concludes Marc Largent. “Their flexibility creates unlimited possibilities, and we designers are very lucky to have creative LED tools like the MiSTRIP available on the market today.”

The evening program starts at 16h30, but thanks to the high brightness of the MiSTRIP, an ambient version of the show can also be seen during the day on the Grand Place.

The MiSTRIP product page is here.  Also, check out Magic Monkey‘s site- they design a lot of really beautiful stuff.

Rocky Mountain Theatre Association

Rocky Mountain Theatre Association

I’m presenting a workshop for young lighting designers and master electricians in February at the Rocky Mountain Theatre Association Conference in February of this next coming year – so, in a few months.  My seminar is about the lighting professional’s life and work – the transition from educational life to that of the professional lighting industry is not an easy one.  I’m going to give the seminar participants some idea about what to expect in the “real” world when they get out of college.

if you’re going to RMTA, check out my seminar!  “Some Ideas About the “Real World” for Lighting Designers and Master Electricians” is happening during the festival, February 4-7, 2009. More info when i know exactly when my seminar will be.’s Resources Page!

Do you see up there below the title, the black space with Contact, Recommended Reading, and now Resources?  That’s the new home of JimOnLight’s Resources section!  I am going to archive important operators’ manuals, console software, offline editor software, and anything that the industry feels is important to have in one place.

Keep in mind, it’s a work in progress.  I have only a few files up right now, but I am adding as I go, and taking suggestions from you, the readers!  Check it out!  Click the Resources button up top, or go to to see the files.

Micro-Pixellated LEDs

I just read an article at about micro-pixellated LEDs, or MicroLEDs – these LEDs arrayed elements, with thousands or even tens of thousands of sources covering a surface.  The University of Strathclyde’s Institute of Photonics in the UK is at the edge of this technology right now, and leading.  They’ve developed, according to the article, the highest performance microLED arrays ever.

From the article:

“We have developed a range of microLEDs in various formats, based on the light-emitting capabilities of gallium nitride (GaN) semiconductor materials,” explained Simon Andrews, business development manager of the Institute of Photonics. “This allows us to generate what is in essence a programmable pattern of light.”

Right now, the spectral output on these microLED arrays is pretty narrow, with UV, blue, and green arrays being the most created.  Andrews also says in the article that red light is possible, but needs to start with a different material system.  Again, from the article:

“We are working on ways to vary the wavelengths of light that can be emitted by the arrays,” explained Andrews. “Our chemistry colleagues at Strathclyde, led by Richard Pethrick, have developed UV transmissive polymers, which increase the transmission of UV light well below 300 nm and down towards 200 nm, to match the wavelengths possible from the GaN alloys. We have blended in different light-emitting polymers to colour-convert UV light into red, green or blue light. In addition, we have blended in quantum dots that can colour-convert UV light into practically any colour that you wish, depending on the size of the dot. As quantum dot technology is becoming easier to source all of the time, this is a significant development.”

Researches at the Institute are also working on different shapes as well – like this micro stripe.

Exciting!  Go read the article, it’s pretty lengthy, and I couldn’t possibly have done it justice here.

Energy Producing Roads?

I just read an article at Inhabitat about an Israeli firm that’s working on a road surface with embedded piezo crystals capable of generating electricity as cars pass over it.  From the article:

The energy-generating roadway works thanks to piezoelectric crystals embeded in the asphalt. As vehicles pass over them, the vibrations generate a small amount of electricity that travels to a larger transformer which then distributes the energy. The generators can be as thin as a few centimeters or can cover large expansive surfaces, and can be easily adapted for a variety of different transit systems including roadways, railways and even airplane runways.

Okay, that’s awesome.  Read more about it here.