Nichia, one of the big names in LEDs, and Luminus Devices have signed a cross-licensing and manufacturing agreement to help bring white light LEDs to market.
It's a big-deal announcement. Nichia has manufacturing might and an extensive sales channel while Luminus has one of the more unusual LEDs out there with its PhlatLight. Rather than make small LEDs that might measure 1 millimeter a side and take up a little more than a square millimeter in area, the company makes devices like its PT120 that can sport 12 square millimeters of light emitting surface
(that’s 4.6 x 2.6 millimeters). A larger LED means that fewer LEDs are needed to produce a lamp, which in turns leads to higher efficiencies.
In other words, it's sort of a reverse Moore's Law.
Under the deal, both companies will sell PhlatLights. The first output is due later this year.
The race to bring LEDs to street lights and buildings is on. Last week, Bridgelux showed off its LED Arrays which it says drastically cut the cost of using LEDs in place of lightbulbs
. The trick? It figured out a way to put several, rather than just one, LED under a lens. Fewer components mean lower costs. Cree, meanwhile, has been signing deals with several cities -- Anchorage, Beijing, Toronto -- to replace street lights with its LEDs.
Lighting consumes 22 percent of the electricity in the U.S. -- don't you forget it -- and traditional lights are incredibly energy efficient. The incandescent bulb only uses about 5 percent of the energy put into it into light. The rest is converted to heat. Invented in 1879, the traditional bulb is one of the last vestiges of vacuum tube technology.
The deal also unites the oldest and one of the newest names in white light LEDs. Nichia engineer Shuji Nakamura invented the blue LED while at NIchia during the '90s. If you cover a blue LED with a yellow phosphor you get white light. Later, Nakamura did the unthinkable in Japan: He sued his employer for shorting him financially for the invention. He ultimately settled for millions and became a folk hero to salarymen in Japan.
Nakamura is now a professor at the University of California Santa Barbara and is behind two Khosla Venture-backed startups: Soraa and Kaai.
Luminus, which grew out of MIT, has raised $139 million