OAK RIDGE, Tenn. -- Artificial lighting consumes about $75 billion, or about a fourth of the nation's electric bill, but that may change because of a new type of lighting being developed by the Department of Energy's (DOE) Oak Ridge Nation al Laboratory (ORNL) and several partners.
The hybrid lighting concept combines natural and artificial light by using collectors to capture sunlight and waveguides to transmit the light to special fixtures. These fixtures are fitted with fluorescent tubes and natural light tubes to produce the desired light output.
"Hybrid lighting holds great promise for improving quality and efficiency of lighting," said ORNL's Art Clemons, co-developer and a member of the Engineering Technology Division. "Even a modest improvement could result in significant savings."
The hybrid lighting partnership, which combines the capabilities and resources of industry and DOE labs, is designed to combine the technologies needed to make hybrid lighting a reality.
"Even though there have been a lot of advances in fiber optics and other technologies critical to this effort, there has been a lack of overall coordination and integration of these technologies on a systems level," said co-developer Jeff Muhs, also of ORNL's Engineering Technology Division. "The purpose of this partnership is to address that concern."
Aside from offering significant improvements in efficiency, hybrid lighting provides reduced maintenance requirements and safety advantages. Blends of natural and artificial light are also more pleasing to the eye and result in improved productivity in the workforce, Muhs said.
Despite the promise of reduced demand for electricity and the other advantages, ORNL researchers note that significant challenges remain before hybrid lighting is ready for the marketplace.
For example, today's light guides that transmit sunlight from collectors atop roofs to fixtures within the building lose 1 percent of light per foot. If the light is being directed several stories into the building, that amount of loss cannot be tolerated.
"Our goal is 1 percent loss per 10 feet," Clemons said, "so we have a considerable way to go."
Other specific areas that require further development include optical materials, light dispersing elements, hybrid lighting systems integration and automatic feedback and control systems. Each of these play a vital role in ensuring the lighting system is uniform and efficient.
"The immediate goal is to bring together a team with expertise in these areas," Clemons said. "The partnership will address the requirements in these areas and then we will develop a program plan that we'll present to DOE."
ORNL's specific areas of expertise include fiber optics, materials and systems integration. In addition, ORNL has demonstrated success in forming government/industry partnerships, Clemons noted.
ORNL, one of DOE's multiprogram research facilities, is managed by Lockheed Martin Energy Research Corp.
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