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  • The $10M Light Bulb
Sep 2008
WASHINGTON, D.C., Sept. 29, 2008 – The Department of Energy (DoE) wants to give you $10 million. That is, of course, if you can come up with a new viable solid-state LED replacement for the standard 60 watt incandescent bulb. A second prize will also be awarded for any company that can create a replacement for a PAR 38 halogen reflector lamp.

Dubbed the L Prize (Lighting Prize), the DoE is the first government-sponsored technology competition specifically designed to inspire a shift from the inefficient, dated lighting products to high-quality, high-efficiency solid-sate lighting products. It is the hope that this contest will set the standard for manufacturing, making LED lighting more economical.

The competition, which was originally announced last May, has very strict guidelines to adhere to. For the standard bulb, it must produce light equivalent to the current 60 watt light bulb, but only use 10 watts of energy. The new LED must also be capable of lasting longer than 25,000 hours (using this light bulb four hours each day, the bulb would last more than 17 years). The halogen replacement bulb will have to be able to create the equivalent of 60 watts of light, but use less than 11 watts.

According to the DoE, if every socket in the United States that currently has a 60-watt bulb were to switch to the envisioned LED bulb, the country would be able to conserve 34 terawatt-hours of electricity per a year. This amount is enough to light all of Las Vegas for two years.

Solid-state lighting has the potential to reduce lighting energy use by 50 percent, to revolutionize the efficiency, appearance and quality of lighting, and to save millions of metric tons of greehouse gas emissions. No other lighting technology offers so much potential to save energy.

The product that wins the contest will be promoted strongly by different utilities throughout the country, it could potentially be included in television campaigns, and will automatically qualify for Energy Star status. The company that wins the contest will be responsible for producing at least 250,000 units the first year, and the production of the LED chip has to occur within the United States.

Though it isn’t a requirement, the guidelines also mention that the standard replacement bulb should cost no more than $8 its third year on the market. While there are some LED-based replacements for light bulbs already available, they cost about $80 - $100 each. One reason for the high cost is a low yield in manufacturing.

Proposals will be accepted for each product category until a winner is declared in each category, or until 24 months have elapsed since the first award in a given category, whichever comes first. In each category, all prizes will be awarded to the winner, the first entrant to successfully meet the full competition requirements. Up to two additional qualifiers may be determined to have met or exceeded the L Prize criteria, and may be eligible for program partner promotions.

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The technology of generating and harnessing light and other forms of radiant energy whose quantum unit is the photon. The science includes light emission, transmission, deflection, amplification and detection by optical components and instruments, lasers and other light sources, fiber optics, electro-optical instrumentation, related hardware and electronics, and sophisticated systems. The range of applications of photonics extends from energy generation to detection to communications and...
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