In contemplating a new technology it may be helpful to look at the technology S curve, which is a rough adoption curve that results from plotting the development of a certain parameter, such as efficiency, against time. When he looked at S-curve data for the first time, Dr. Chipalkatti was startled to find that the products being described were incandescent lamps and fluorescent lamps. Because he worked for a lighting company, the data immediately caught his attention.

When he began working on the research and development of organic light emitting diodes (OLEDs) and LEDs, it occurred to him to try to demonstrate how fast this technology was actually moving. He decided to try plotting the progress of solid-state lighting, using the parameter of efficiency against time. He found that the new technology was following the same S-curve pattern as earlier lighting technologies. Then he extended this plot by using all of their optimistic forecasts and actual research that Sylvania and other laboratories had accomplished. He included discussions in symposiums like the current one, where attendees shared their laboratory experiences and projections through the next decade. He said that the response from those performing the R&D was generally optimistic and that the time had come to act, to “make this happen.”


He addressed the question of whether LEDs would be a disruptive technology, and whether their adoption would upset traditional lighting customs. The answer is “yes.” At the same time, however, many incandescent products and other traditional lamps are already being challenged by LEDs. Incandescents, in particular, are inefficient in terms of light output, especially for monochromatic applications such as exit signs. “To some extent the incandescent lamp is akin to taking a log of wood and lighting it up. It just heats something so hot that it produces light.” A solid-state device, by contrast, converts electrons directly to photons without reliance on heating.

Rather than using the term “disruptive technology,” Dr. Chipalkatti said that he prefers to describe solid-state lighting as a new technology that will expand the lighting industry, create new concepts in lighting, and extend the concept of lighting in new directions. He used the structural tile again as an example of a function combined with a material that has never been possible before. He hoped that such a possibility would fire the imaginations of users, consumers, architects, and designers to stimulate growth in new directions. Every day, he said, LED technology is leading to new concepts and inventions.

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