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US signs off $25m for LED lighting research

Omnibus Appropriations Bill also puts Department of Energy in charge of Energy Star specifications for solid-state lighting products.

Legislation just approved by the US government will provide another major financial boost for research into solid-state lighting technology.

The wording of the Fiscal Year 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Bill, a $410 billion spending plan for government agencies running from March until September this year, earmarks "no less than" $25 million for solid-state lighting research and development.

It also provides $33 million for the Commercial Buildings Initiative, at least some of which is set to be used to install LED-based luminaires in highly energy-efficient buildings.

In addition, the new legislation hands overall responsibility for developing Energy Star specifications for solid-state lighting to the Department of Energy (DOE).

Until now, the DOE and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had been developing different Energy Star specifications, something that had led to significant inter-agency wrangling (see related articles).

When contacted by compoundsemiconductor.net, the EPA provided this statement:

“The 2009 appropriations bill does not speak to EPA s role in Energy Star and solid-state lighting. The Administration is working to clarify any confusion on this issue.”

The $25 million approved provides the same level of funding as last year "“ despite the perceived shift towards “green” technologies anticipated under the new US Administration. The money will be spent on active projects during the coming year.

Additional funding allocated under the Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, perhaps better known as the US economic stimulus, will also be spent on four research solicitations that are set to be announced by the DOE over the next few months.

On February 27, the DOE issued a new research call to Department-run and other federal laboratories. It is seeking to allocate $2 million annual funding for research into core solid-state lighting technologies "“ including epitaxial growth, bandgap engineering and phosphors, among other key topics.

The projects chosen are set to receive $0.6 million for each year that they run. The DOE expects to make between two and six such awards in the current fiscal year.

This latest DOE research call identifies five key areas of interest for LEDs, and a further four relating to organic LED development. For conventional LEDs, the five areas are: internal quantum efficiency; phosphors and conversion materials; thermal components; system reliability; and optical components.

For LEDs operating in the visible region, the DOE s goal is to deliver an internal quantum efficiency (IQE) of 90 per cent by 2015.

"Applications are sought that specifically address the improvement of IQE through the epitaxial process," it states, while ideas for reducing the droop problem (see related stories), and the use of non-polar materials are also encouraged. The deadline for application is April 17, 2009.

Substrate materials research is outside the scope of this particular program.

• The DOE is hosting a solid-state lighting "manufacturing workshop" next month. The two-day event in Fairfax, VA, begins on April 21 and will feature parallel streams on key LED and organic LED topics.

For full details and a preliminary agenda, visit the DOE s workshop pages.

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