Discovered on Light + Building 2018:
By: Jessica Merkens
In 2017 we got awarded a second Edison
Barely twenty years after the rise of white LED lighting a new technology is emerging in the field of light: light from lasers. This technology has such a potential, that even the scientist who invented blue led (which made white led lighting possible) and Nobel prize winner Shuji Nakamura thinks that laser-based lighting will dominate the lighting market in the future.
What makes this technology so much better than energy-efficient LED lighting? We asked Erik Wellen, CEO of Parhelion: an American/Dutch start-up that stood out with their laser-lighting technique on trade fair Light + Building.
What does Parhelion exactly do?
“We’re busy marketing lighting with laser technology: Laser Diffraction Grating (LDG). We do not build luminaires, we make the light source. We have our own blue laser module with which we shine through a specific material which in turn creates white light.”
How did it all start?
“The founding team consists of American twins Jim and Richard Redpath, and myself. Richard is the inventor, Jim translates his inventions to conventional products. Richard developed the laser technique partly thanks to a high school project of his daughter. Through Kickstarter, we raised more than half a million dollar to develop the technique further. My task was to set up the business and marketing side of the company.
We developed a searchlight with LDG which earned us the Edison award in 2015. Laser light gives better sight in murky surroundings such as in smoked-filled air or in water with high turbidity. With blue laser-beams those particles light up which improves visibility.
Then we asked ourselves if it would it be possible to make white light with laser techniques. Richard searched for a material on which we could shine the blue laser so that it would create white light. And Eureka, we had white light! In 2017 we got awarded a second Edison. A big honour since these are only awarded to so-called disruptive inventions.”
The owners of Parhelion won two Edison awards for their invention
It’s a whole other way of producing light
Erik Wellen, CEO of Parhelion
What are you working on right now?
“We’re busy producing the LGD StripeLight, a unique flashlight for emergency services. Besides we’re busy optimising the white light technology. We made a lot of new contacts on Light + Building, we were getting swamped with all the attention. A lot of people thought our product was the most innovative they had seen on the trade fair, a big compliment.”
What are the challenges you’re facing?
“One of the most critical challenges was cooling. A laser in a club flickers because it can’t shine continuously. It would overheat. You wouldn’t want that with conventional lighting. We were able to develop passive cooling with the Firefly. Another problem was the strength of the laser.
The challenge we now face is to get lighting that is both energy-efficient and has a high quality. With our first model the material couldn’t withstand the heat. In our updated model, we used a different material that is more heat resistant, but we still have to optimise the chemical mix so that the quality of light increases.”
What are the advantages of laser lighting compared to LED?
“It’s a whole other way of producing light. Laser light is polarised, similar to sunlight. We’re busy trying to get a lot of lumen from a minimal light emitting surface, something you would never be able to achieve with LED. Our laser light is also about 50 per cent more energy efficient than LED since there is little heat production. The lamp itself doesn’t get much hotter than forty degrees Celsius. Also, the lifespan is comparable to that of LED. With the laser we make use of transmission, we shine right through a material. Therefore we don’t use a mirror. Because of that, you won’t have any light loss.
The light doesn’t have a flicker, and there’s no UV-light in the spectrum. This has multiple advantages, for instance in museums where UV is detrimental for artworks. It is also a pleasant light, it creates apparent shadows. This is useful for precision lighting, such as for watch- or jewellery making.”
The light doesn’t have a flicker, and there’s no UV-light in the spectrum
Similar to LED the uses are endless
Doesn’t laser light blind you?
“The white light that shines from the lamp is created with a laser, but it’s not perceived as a laser beam. Looking straight into our lamp is just as dangerous as looking into a LED light.”
Is the laser light dimmable?
“Our most recent version isn’t yet, but the next version will be dimmable to zero. You have a lot fewer problems with incompatibility of a laser as compared to LED, we can work with several drivers.”
What can we expect from laser-based light technology?
“Similar to LED the uses are endless. There are also a few things you can’t do with LED, but you can with a laser. For instance, walking into a big public space such as a mall or train station that is fully lit but without visible light sources. We aim to produce a lot of light with a minimal light source which would make these applications possible.”