Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) produce a radically different type of lighting than what we are used to. Already in use in many architectural and commercial applications,these are now reaching our homes too.For a country like India, which struggles to meet the increasing electricity demand with growth in the economy,the biggest benefit of LED lighting is energy saving.

According to India’s Ministry of Power, the country plans to build 80 new coal-fired power plants to keep up with the rising electricity demand over the next five years. But the potential savings from simply changing light bulbs to the new LED technology can significantly reduce the country’s electricity demand by as much as 40 per cent.

LEDs would significantly reduce the lighting load, peak demand and overall energy consumption without compromising on the environment safety as it has no mercury and heavy metal content.
The opportunity

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The Indian market for LED lighting is expected to grow to $400 million by 2015 (at a rate of 53 per cent per annum), making it one of the fastest growing sectors.

According to Electric Lamp & Component Manufacturers’ Association of India (ELCOMA), the entire lighting industry production in India in 2009 was worth about Rs 71.67 billion, of which the share of LED lighting was only Rs 2.16 billion. The market will be driven by such factors as government support for promoting investments in energy-efficient lighting, development of national standards for testing and performance evaluation, transfer and improvements in existing technology for new applications, global mandate to address greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and decline in average prices of LED.

The efficacy and life of LED lighting would improve over a period of time. Efficacy is expected to double in the next 20 years. Formation of national standards for LEDs will accelerate the market development.

The nationwide LED Village Campaign by Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) has come as a booster. Under the campaign, LED-based street lights are being installed in villages. LEDs are also being used on a large scale in appliances like air-conditioners and televisions.

Is India ready?

No industry can be driven unless it has the right set of skilled people. In India, since there has not been much focus on lighting education, the industry is in dire need of lighting professionals.

“Most of the Indian lighting industry is still dependent on foreign MNCs for any innovation. One simple reason is that there is no technical institute at the moment which teaches lighting as a subject and its association with electronics. Our electronics hardware manufacturing sector to a large extent doesn’t even know what lighting electronics is,” says Praveen Kumar Sood, chairman, Regnant Group.

“Thankfully, now the government has awakened. We are in touch with the Ministry of Renewable Energy, TERI and Indian Society of Lighting Engineers. We are asking the institutes and universities to start courses in lighting electronics,” he adds.

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What goes inside?

“Earlier, lighting used to be the science of physics related with optics. Now it’s more science of electronics. Again, it’s not all electronics. Chips are made of metals, and metals come under metallurgy, with composition and organic structure. Thus it involves the sciences of chemistry, metallurgy, physics and electrical engineering too. Whatever is there, it’s being controlled with the help of electronics. So it’s no more just illumination. Lighting today is a multidisciplinary subject,” explains Dr Prakash Barjatia, former director, MIT School of Energy & Lighting, Pune, and chairman, Mumbai State Centre, Indian Society of Lighting Engineers.

LED per se is not a light source. It’s a semiconductor diode that emits light and the light is controlled by a controller. Without the controller, it can’t work. Then comes the science of physics in heat dissipation. Whatever heat is generated, if it’s not dissipated properly, the module will not perform effectively.

“Very few companies make LEDs in India. On the other hand, LED drivers are designed and manufactured by many companies in India,” informs Dr Barjatia.


Skills required

LED lighting requires knowledge of all the sciences mentioned above. If you look at the basic concept of an LED, there is the role of electronics engineers. But if you consider an overall luminary where LED or some other light source can be used, role of lighting designers and electrical engineers too comes into play. Proper lighting is more a role of creativity as it can do wonders by elevating your mood, for instance.

It also helps to have some knowledge of management. To sell a product in the market, one needs to know how LED is better than other lighting technologies. LED is energy-efficient but there are other such sources as well.

“In India, the industry is limited to few people who keep on switching from one company to another. There is not much of value addition done year by year to this industry. The only way to do that is by infusing new blood into this industry. Without new ideas and understanding of the vastness of this industry, things will never improve,” says Mr Sood.

“Lighting can influence the whole working culture—offices, homes, hospitals, airports and industrial environments all need different kinds of lighting.The industry needs people from engineering background, architectural background (interior designers) and even physiologists because lighting has so much of influence on the human mind itself,” he adds.

Where to study?

Jadavpur University offers a purely technology-oriented course. It offers M.Tech in illumination technology, which is a two-year full-time course. Also, there are some universities which have adopted illumination engineering as one of the elective subjects at the BE level. These include Manipal, Mumbai and Pune universities apart from Jadavpur University.

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“As the industry needs knowledge of marketing too, on the lines of sector specific MBA courses, we conceptualised an MBA course in lighting technology and energy management. This course was launched in 2007 at MIT Group, Pune as a two-year full-time postgraduate programme. The success of this course can be gauged from the fact that till the last fourth batch, there have been more than 100 per cent placements; some candidates have even received more than three-four placement offers including overseas offers,” informs Dr Barjatia.

The course structure of this programme is lighting technology (40 per cent), marketing management (40 per cent) and energy management (20 per cent). Lighting/energy management subjects taught are introduction to lighting technology, lighting and its measurement, light sources, luminaires, lighting applications, biological effects of light, lighting design, lighting management and energy management.

“With LED coming in a big way, everybody is feeling the need for LED lighting professionals. As a result, new courses are coming up. Some online courses are also available,” adds Dr Barjatia.

At the global level, the industry is proactive and the community responds to the actions of the industry. The Lighting Research Center (LRC) in New York is one example. Part of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, it is a leading university-based research centre devoted to lighting. It also offers graduate education in lighting, including one- and two-year master’s programmes and a Ph.D. programme. The Solid-State Lighting Program at LRC conducts necessary research and educational programmes to enhance LED lighting technology, overcome barriers to effective use, and help it to gain acceptance for general illumination purposes.

Each LED is designed to teach industry professionals how to incorporate LEDs into lighting applications. It also includes updated technical content based on the latest industry developments. Through hands-on workshops and classroom sessions, participants learn the basics of LED technology while building an understanding of LED system integration issues involving the electrical, optical and thermal characteristics of LEDs. Participants also learn how to measure and evaluate LEDs and LED systems, and have the opportunity to compare LED technologies from a variety of manufacturers. The programme culminates with the participants designing, building and evaluating their own LED fixtures.


Different roles available

LED lighting is challenging to design as it requires complex driver and control electronics. As an LED lighting designer, one needs to achieve a practical balance between various factors including thermal management, efficiency, dimming, light and colour output, power factor correction (PFC), and safety.

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Fortunately, IC manufacturers are responding to new LED device technologies with LED driver solutions that provide the key capabilities.Engineers can find suitable driver ICs optimised for LED lighting applications and tuned to work with specific classes of LEDs while addressing a range of specialised requirements. Available ICs offer switched-mode solutions ranging from charge pumps to single-ended primary-inductor converters, thermal monitoring features, capabilities to help engineers meet PFC standards, and dimming control options available through a simple pulse-width-modulation control pin, among others.

If an LED luminary is made in a well designed way, it can give 50,000 hours of life. On the other hand, LED drivers are available with a life expectancy of only 25,000 hours. Thus enhancing the life expectancy of LED drivers is one area you may be expected to focus on as an R&D professional.

Highly integrated ICs for lighting control and driver electronics bring power management to lighting applications.As a control and driver IC designer, you will be aiming at integration and finding new ways to reduce the form factor. Providing extensive support tooling is also important to allow for the fastest and simplest design. NXP Semiconductors, Infineon, Texas Instruments and Recom are some LED driver solution providers.

The main function of the mechanical design engineers is to work within the engineering team to design metal and plastic enclosures and additional mechanical components, production assistance with the design of jigs and fixtures, and also management of the jigs and fixture manufacture.

The responsibilities of the lighting application support manager include supply design proposal—especially architecture lighting proposal, technical support to segment sales, product/application training to internal staff and professional dealers—especially for architecture knowledge and lighting, and coordination with internal department to organise and conduct lighting seminars/workshops.The candidate needs to be a university graduate with major in architecture, interior design, industry design or related field, and have some experience in architecture lighting design.

As a sales engineer, you will be responsible for handling projects, which include site visits, architect/ consultant meets, planning and making technical presentation, proposal making, etc. You will need to explore possibilities to extend product portfolio, while doing extensive analysis of product range, technology used and price structure.


Future outlook

It is expected that by 2021, the LED technology will penetrate 57 per cent of the lighting market, driven by the government procurement and large scale penetration by the public sector. Private sector, due to its cost economics, will be the early adopter. By 2031,more than 80 per cent of the lighting market will be captured.
So with LED becoming the lighting of choice, a career in this industry will only have brighter prospects.