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Lighting firm Luminus expands into white LEDs

LED lighting start-up Luminus signs a deal with a Japanese manufacturer to produce high-powered lamps for commercial uses such as street lights and warehouses.

Energy-efficient LEDs lamps have reached a point where they can compete with traditional lighting in some applications, but don't expect to find LED lightbulbs at the every supermarket tomorrow, according to Udi Meirav, CEO of LED start-up Luminus.

Luminus announced Monday a partnership with Japanese LED company Nichia to make components for LEDs lamps that give off white light. Until now, Luminus has made chips for colored LED lights that go into projectors and TVs. Other LED companies target commercial applications as well, such as public lighting.

Street lights with LED lamps. Luminus

Luminus' partnership with Nichia will result in LED lamps that give off white light, making LEDs attractive for a wide range of uses, Meirav said.

Through a cross-licensing arrangement, Luminus later this quarter will make its flat-shaped chips that go into LED lamps using Nichia's phosphorescent technology, which is better suited for white light, he explained.

Rather than try to make a replacement for consumer lightbulbs, Luminus intends to target lighting that demand high-powered output, including street lamps, warehouses, and arenas. That's because Luminus' manufacturing technology, originally developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is best suited for these high-intensity lighting applications.

LED lights can be up to twice as efficient as other forms of lighting and last for decades of use. But they are more expensive to purchase than other forms of lighting, and the quality of the light isn't always as good as incandescent or halogen lighting.

Even with a higher upfront cost, LEDs can be more cost-effective over the lifetime of use, Meirav asserts. He said that the technology continues to improve and that over the comings years, LEDs will become far more commonplace.

"The LED lights themselves are now at a performance that make them viable, even attractive, alternatives today. I couldn't say that five years ago," Meirav said.

What's holding back the rate of adoption has less to do with the technology and more to do with an industry supply chain still focused on incumbent lighting technologies.

"That's the rate-limiting step in this (replacement) process. It's beginning to happen now, but lighting is not a fast-moving industry--not like computers or telecom," he said.

Meirav expects LED lighting companies to benefit from a federal stimulus package now making its way through Congress. The package includes incentives for municipal buildings to invest in energy efficiency.