LED 2.0: The Holy Grail Has Arrived

FEBRUARY 12, 2012 | By Richard Young for Sustainability Beyond the Plate: The Foodservice Efficiency Blog

This is an exciting week - perhaps even a tipping point in the path to efficient restaurant lighting. Soraa, a lighting company based in Fremont California (http://www.soraa.com/), officially announced their new product, an LED lamp so radical that's it's considered a "disruptive technology." Soraa has created the holy grail of front-of-house lighting: a true LED equivalent to the 50 watt halogen MR16 lamp.

The FSTC staff actually got a sneak preview about a week before the release date but we had to hold our tongues until the actual product announcement. It was a long week! But, now we can tell the story and talk about how this will affect the restaurant world.

The most widely used decorative lamp in food service is the MR16 halogen - the small, bright, 2-inch diameter lamps often used as spots in dining rooms, bars, retail, wine sections…basically everywhere. The favorite flavor is the 50 watt version. For years, the LED industry has eyed the MR16 with envy and tried everything to produce a true solid state equivalent. The closest they could come was a pretty decent 35 watt, but it really didn't have the attributes, like focus and intensity, of the real halogen MR16.

Soraa has changed all that by creating a new type of ultra-pure gallium nitride crystal that allows the LED package to be smaller and brighter while operating at a higher temperature. This LED is so small that it is considered a "point-source," like the halogen lamp in an MR16. This is important: a point source can be focused with optics to produce a controlled, intense, beam of light.

Here are three design elements that make the Soraa lamp radical:

Heat sinks are critical to solid state lighting and the Soraa lamp uses an advanced heat sink design that creates a convective air-current to move the heat away from the electronics.

The electronics are designed to operate at a higher ambient temperature so the lumen (light) output of the lamp will not diminish in normal applications. This is important because Soraa is driving 12 watts through a single LED chip!

White LEDs have a strong blue component that has to be overcome with optics in order to get a decent warm white. The Soraa lamp is based on a violet LED and it doesn't have the "blue spike" so, color control is more effective and efficient - producing excellent color rendering and stability.

Did I mention that they look great?

Then there is the price which is expected to be in the mid-twenty dollar range. A quick calc shows about a one year payback for a lamp that is on about 10 hours a day - not counting the labor/maintenance savings you get from a 25,000 hour lamp.

By the way, you can do your own easy lighting calculations using the new FSTC Online Lighting Calculator at http://www.fishnick.com/saveenergy/tools/calculators/silampcalc.php.

The buzz around the FSTC lab has been electric. We can all think of dozens of applications for these lamps and are dying to get our hands on some to try out. Keep an eye on this blog for upcoming examples of real world installs.

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