INTERVIEWS

Lighting scientist and OLED group leader, Thorn Lighting

Solid state is the future
We need to think bigger than the luminaire itself, to think about how the luminaire integrates into a building infrastructure and how we can do things differently with solid state lighting. How can we get the architects and lighting designers excited about doing something different from the way we light a building now? Another of my aims is to demonstrate the manufacturability of thin organic polymeric LEDs, taking it through to the development of a manufacturing facility in the UK. That’s only single-figure years away.

Joined-up thinking is needed
We’ve got to move away from the traditional way of building buildings. Let’s look at having sophisticated, intelligent building design that incorporates every aspect of emerging technologies to give the best benefit and the lowest carbon footprint. The people in positions of power are just not thinking along this integrated emerging technology line. They’ll continue to put significant amounts of money into research and development for solid state lighting, solar energy harvesting and wind turbine power generation, but what they’re not doing is thinking of the glue between the power generation and the lighting technology – the batteries, the control systems, the integrated power transmission cables – so that we can do things differently and better.

We should learn from aerospace
A good example is to ask yourself if you would get in an aeroplane that had been built in the same way we build buildings – the aircraft designers just took technologies A, B and C and glued them together in the hope that they would work? We expect that of technology for the built environment, and yet also expect the building to deliver very low or even carbon-negative footprints. Sometimes it will work, but the vast majority of times it won’t. If you’re going to build a new Airbus, you ask what you need to do and who you need to bring together. Let’s start looking at the problem of carbon-neutral, smart building design in the same way.

Architects and lighting designers must beat the drum
The lighting industry can produce an efficient product, but an efficient product doesn’t give you an efficient application. We need to be optimising these DC-driven devices with sophisticated power-generating capability from renewables, in conjunction with smart building design and emerging electronic technologies. That isn’t happening. It’s got to be driven at the top level by the politicians and the civil servants, but the mantle’s also got to be taken up by the architects and the lighting designers, telling the industrial community that it needs to happen.You need to have that commercial pull for the industry to get on board.

Reduction, reduction, reduction
The philosophy of the politicians is that we need to be using two per cent a year more electricity, which means building more power stations. That’s like saying ‘I’ve drunk too much red wine, I’ll take a paracetamol’, and then you drink more and take more paracetamol. It’s not the solution. We’ve got to start thinking about how to reduce our power consumption so that we can take away our need to generate electricity in the traditional ways.

Solid-state plus renewables equals a huge difference
Lighting consumes 20 per cent of all electrical power generated. If you went to completely solid state lighting powered from completely renewable sources, you’re going to reduce the need for 20 per cent of the world’s power stations. But it’s a fact that you can also take your laptops, your mobile phones and your computer systems off the grid as well and power them by renewables, which adds more on top.

Individuals need help too
We’ve got to have strategies for how we as individuals operate as well. The majority of people say to themselves: ‘I don’t pay the electricity bill for the office that I work in, therefore it’s not my responsibility to switch the light off.’

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