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To be continued – Archive

Mercury-free fluorescent lamps! With schnitzel effect?

At the Hanover Fair it was rumoured that researchers envisage seeing a new market-ready light source available in 2014.

Text: Joachim Ritter

What has the Hanover Fair got to do with lighting? You don’t understand the question? Then I would guess you are no older than 35 or have not been working in the lighting industry for the last 15 years. That is not connected to my inexplicable skills as a clairvoyant, but is quite simple rooted in the fact that the lighting industry only started presenting their wares at Light+Building in Frankfurt in the year 2000, having turned their backs on the Hanover Fair and the so-called World Light Show. Ever since the fair in Hanover existed, the World Light Show, and Lighting as a technical discipline, formed an integral part of the fair. The success recorded by Light+Building is no secret. Since 2000, the Hanover Fair has been somewhat underexposed when it comes to Light and Lighting.

It is, however, interesting to note that every now and then something from the industrial fair spills over into the lighting world. As it is, this year the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) presented a mercury-free fluorescent lamp. Which works – with the aid of microwave technology.

Professor Rainer Kling and his team have working in earnest for over two years to remove the toxic metal from the lamps – and they have done it. At the 2013 Hanover Fair he presented a series of prototypes by the intriguing name of “3rdPPBulb”. Next year, the lamps are due to go into series production.

The “devil’s metal” will be a thing of the past. And the new lamps are supposed to be even more efficient than conventional ones. Prof. Kling maintains: “We want to achieve the performance of a conventional 75 watt bulb with just 11 or 12 watts”. Compact fluorescent lamps need 16 watts to achieve that. Some LED light sources, which are also mercury-free, do achieve better values, but would be pushing it a bit far to reach the 75 watt benchmark. Prof. Kling estimates a lamp life of around 30,000 hours for his prodigies.
What is the trick behind this invention? In conventional energy-saving lamps the gas mixture is ignited by electrodes. Since mercury already turns into gas at low temperatures, it makes for an optimum luminescent substance.
Non-toxic gases require more heat to make them glow. Kling achieves this using microwaves, a discovery made by a colleague of his from Aachen, who is also involved in the research project. The microwaves ignite the gas externally – the lamp no longer needs any electrodes, which burn out with time. According to the researchers, these microwaves are harmless. “We are talking about the basically same technology that is used for mobile phones or Bluetooth equipment. Right now patent licence negotiations are being conducted with the big manufacturers,” Kling explains. “I presume that our lamp will be available on the market as of next year”.

This technology is not really my domain, which is why I consulted an expert, who in turn gave some thought to the whole topic. Thomas Röding from Insta GmbH took a critical view of the innovation: “In the report they talk about wattages but not about luminous flux. Nothing is publicly known about the efficiency of the lamp. Taking the planned 12 watts for a 75 watt incandescent lamp as a basis would mean a luminous efficacy greater than 70 lumens per watt. That would be substantially better than what the TCL has been able to offer to date, but not enough to derail LED technology. This is where I see the first big hurdle for this technology. It depends on the efficiency of the overall system – that will decide whether the product can even be considered ready for the market.
It is certainly positive that the Karlsruhe team have managed to do away with the electrodes. That is real progress, since electrodes are one of the weak points in fluorescent technology.
The quoted lamp life of 30,000 hours can only be regarded as a laboratory value. In practice, we are often forced to make compromises.
Was eine spätere Serientype leisten kann, essentially depends on a lot more factors. It is interesting to note that the developer regards the lamp life as a disadvantage. Either he does not believe in the product as much as he claims to or he is aware of the problems involved when marketing long-life products.
For a start, you have the codes and standards that a series product is required to meet. That alone can lead to modifications having to be made which can render the product unmarketable – either because of the price or for performance reasons. After all, the lamp needs to fit into the envelopes of the lamps it is supposed to be replacing as well as into the respective lamp holders. That can have a negative effect on heat management.
Then there is the issue of availability of materials. If special expensive elements or components are required, the series will be limited and the price high. Of course, we will have to wait and see what develops, although time is basically running short for this lamp. In my opinion, this development is ten years too late.
What control gear technology is required? Existing gear will not provide the answer. Given current standards, the development of power supply units is complex. It will probably be necessary to apply for an operating permit for this technology, and it can take some time to get that through. Depending on what construction principles evolve, it may be necessary to replace the whole luminaire, which will have a negative impact on the usability of the light source.
Further issues, such as the public acceptance of fluorescent lighting, and fluctuations in luminous flux at different temperatures, indicate that there is still a substantial need for clarification”.

I do not wish to be alarmist, or unduly negative, but it looks like it could be a bit tight for this product to be market-ready by 2014. Is the lighting industry really prepared to open yet another can of worms and challenge the LED? Technology may be exciting, and researchers successful in finding new solutions, but there comes a time when you have to admit that not every technical solution is a real alternative. The project is therefore not likely to win a Nobel Prize, unless the microwave lamps can simultaneously be used to cook a schnitzel. If that were the case, I am sure energy-conscious politicians would be delighted to enforce this technology upon us.

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Challenge of the day: Write a caption for this picture!

By Alison + Joachim Ritter

F Airport

Well, it is definitely a new building and it is equipped with LEDs. We are at Frankfurt Airport waiting for a long-distance flight. There is a lot of daylight coming in through the one fully glazed façade and we could probably do without any electric light. Anyway, better energy-saving sources than conventional ones … But is this LED solution a good example of architectural lighting design? We counted three different types of fixtures in the ceiling and two different colour temperatures and have donned sunglasses to counteract the glare (NB not from outside)..

So get creative and write a suitable caption! I was thinking of something like: Lighting system’s SOS to the world – we need qualified people to design lighting and apply sensible systems – do something…

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Of tomb raiders and desecrated pyramids

Mona Lisa Louvre

Mona Lisa loves modern technology. Photo: Toshiba

By Joachim Ritter

Ask someone to name a museum that is known in all corners of the earth and they are bound to come up with the Louvre in Paris. This is where you can gaze in wonder at Mona Lisa’s never-ending smile, and this is where you will find one of mankind’s most significant symbols of durability and sustainability: the Pyramid – built in this case of modern-day materials such as steel and glass and designed by Ieoh Ming Pei. Contrary to ancient Egyptians, Pei must have thought that as long as it is possible to see inside the Louvre Pyramid, there would be no reason to mess with it. The Egyptians regarded the pyramid as a symbol of the unbreakable, the indestructible, which is why they chose to bury their Pharaohs deep inside them. But nothing lasts forever and is basically only a question of time. Sometimes it takes thousands of years until some tomb raider or villain comes along to retrieve what they can of the deathly hallows and desacralise them for a social cause.

And thus, too, are the days of the current tungsten halogen and metal halide lamps in the Louvre numbered. Not for reasons of avarice, I hasten to add, but in order to save energy.

In the last few weeks a number of websites have published the report about the ‘grand remplacement’ of the lighting in the Louvre in the French capital. The report was in fact a press release which, given the international significance of the museum, became top news – and treated with far more reverence than many of the other communications about energy saving that regularly hit the headlines.

But something held me back from swallowing the information contain in the press report. I needed some time to realise what this piece of news was actually relating. Questions came to mind that I didn’t have any answers for. Do the new light sources and the existing luminaires fit together? When the lamps are replaced, does that mean the fixtures need replacing too?

Young designers in the industry will not immediately grasp the historical relevance of this news, and will certainly not experience that – dare I say – weird stomach muscle tightening feeling that accompanies a certain awareness of what is going on. Let me just say Erco Lichtbericht No. 32, published in April 1989 and No. 77, published in 2005… But I’ll come back to that later.

But before we go any further, here is the original (not edited) press release from lamp manufacturer Toshiba.

“In France, on Tuesday, June 4th, a lighting ceremony was held in the Musée du Louvre’s Napoleon Hall to celebrate the completion of the Toshiba LED lighting renovation for the displays of the Mona Lisa and Red Room. The ceremony was attended by Toshiba’s Corporate Senior Executive Vice President, Mr. Hidejiro Shimomitsu, and Louvre Museum General Manager, Mr Hervé Barbaret, as well as 480 guests, including valued European customers.
The Musée du Louvre and Toshiba have maintained a partnership agreement since June 2010. Toshiba has so far renovated the lighting of the Pyramid, the Pyramidions and the Pavillon Colbert (December 2011) and the Cour Napoleon (May 2012) – a testimony of the Louvre’s investment in the environment. The renovations have significantly cut power consumption, and a 73 per cent cut in power consumed by exterior lighting.
The lighting renovation of the Mona Lisa and displays in the Red Room is the first time Toshiba LEDs have been used for interior lighting in the museum, and has allowed for the installation of a new generation of lighting products. The lamps and lighting fixtures developed by Toshiba have improved colour rendering of the paintings, total suppressed UV and IR radiation, and reduced electricity consumption for the Red Room and the Mona Lisa.
A unique, highly innovative lamp was installed in front of Mona Lisa and concealed in the shelf next to the painting. This lamp uses 34 LEDs and allows for the compensation of colour shift due to the protective glazing and ambient lighting. The lamp includes various optical systems to frame the painting and to maintain very high lighting uniformity across the masterpiece. An innovative control system, that allows the Musée du Louvre to adjust the spectrum of the lamp as precisely as possible, was developed with the highest possible fidelity to colours.
The Louvre palace remains in constant evolution over the years, building upon its constitution for many centuries now. Today still, the creation of this new lamp specifically for the Mona Lisa is the result of an iterative collaboration between great specialists. In 2005, a new, ultramodern spotlight was created for the presentation of the Mona Lisa at the opening of the Salle des Etats. Today, thanks to the expertise of Toshiba and the contribution of internationally renowned specialists towards an ultra-sophisticated technology, a new spot prototype, at the forefront of lighting development, is once again presented.
Toshiba has undertaken new lighting projects on a global scale since April 2010 as part of its approach to create a new “akari (lighting) culture” in harmony with people and the environment. In addition to enhancing its technical capabilities gained through its involvement in this project Toshiba, as one of the world’s leading eco-conscious companies, will continue to contribute to global culture and reduction of environmental burdens.
The next stage of the partnership will be to use Toshiba LED lighting in the Cour Carrée (a square courtyard) by the end of 2013 and in the Napoleon Hall in the first half of 2014 (scheduled).
A dedicated website has been created showcasing Toshiba’s involvement in the Musée du Louvre’s lighting renovation project. The site explains each of the phases of this project.”

End of the press release.

Sounds good – highly innovative and of course extremely generous of Toshiba. Big thank you due there, then.

But in spite of the huge generosity that has been shown here, there should still be room to ask a few questions. With all the talk about progress and reducing energy consumption, there is one term that has been entirely forgotten: Lighting Design, let alone Lighting Designer. Neither of those terms gets a mention throughout the entire press release. Now, some people may think that lighting paintings is all about achieving an even, uniform wash of the painted surface, and that it can’t be that difficult to get right. The more uniform, the better, so to speak. But this is where Toshiba, and the Louvre for that matter, couldn’t be more wrong. A modern approach would mean involving a careful examination of the pigments used by the artist and how those substances react to the different parts of the spectrum. In Italy, they have progressed a little further in this regard.

Erco is also not quite on the right track (no pun intended) here, either. Their claim to uniform lighting being the paradigm solution is unfortunately also out of date. Speaking of Erco: after the Pei project at the Louvre in the 1980’s, the Louvre was quite clearly an Erco project. And when the lighting was renewed in 2005 Erco was still the first port of call – for the art pieces as well as for the Pyramid. And anyone who has seen the Louvre live immediately associates the quality of the lighting with that company.

But that is now history. For whether they have only replaced the light sources or also installed different luminaires – Erco or not Erco – the museum will for sure consume less energy, but will likely forfeit much of the lighting quality. Those who are able to compare the LEDs and the conventional lighting technology and actually feel the difference will doubtless ask whether Erco would like to be associated with this new quality of lighting in future and whether the Louvre will get another mention in the Lichtbericht. I doubt it.

The art world has always been an exception when it comes to prioritising costs and quality. Whether that will remain so, may well become a topic for debate in the coming years … and probably also the reason why the Pyramid at the Louvre will not remain unscathed when the next round of conquerors turn up on its doorstep.

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Drilling in the USA

  By Joachim Ritter

phili bus

Just some days ago I was getting over the Euroluce experience – you may remember how I tried to analyse the structure of the fairground layout in Milan and define different degrees of difficulty of understanding it only to discover that there are a lot of similarities with other areas of Italian life, and even politics to date. (We watch with interest to see how the latter will develop after 28. April …)

Today I am reporting from my experience from Philadelphia where I  attended Lightfair. Here, too, I have found an example that demonstrates the mentality of our American friends very well. The fair venue was in the centre of the city. Our hotel is outside the city centre, but there is a great bus connection that took us directly to the Convention Center. Sitting on the bus, you tend to look at what is around you – in and outside the bus – to get to know the world around you.

If a passenger wishes to alight, he/she rang the bell to send a signal to the driver. You do this by tugging on an electric cable that is loosely hung along the centre of the windows on both sides of the bus. My attention was drawn to a notice printed on what is obviously a vertical cable duct. I was astounded to read a sign warning me not to drill holes in this cable duct – because it is a cable duct.

Bus 2Bus 3

Bus 4

I am aware of the fact that America has suffered a number of damages cases, the reasons for which some Europeans merely smile at. Suppliers of carbonated soft drinks, for example, are obliged to point out in writing that when opening a bottle of soda the cap may fly off and hurt somebody because of pressure built up inside the bottle. Oh …! Especially when you may have unwittingly shaken it before opening. Without the warning label the supplier could find himself facing damages for causing someone bodily harm…

So here I was, sitting on the bus and wondering how many passengers travel by bus to work, to go shopping or to visit a friend with a drill in their pocket and suddenly feel the urge to drill a hole somewhere in the bus. Wherever they fancy drilling a hole, and for whatever reason they feel encouraged to do so, please for Heaven’s sake don’t drill in this cable duct!

Perhaps this is also an issue of culture. In other parts of the world people on buses read the newspaper or listen to music, or they talk to the person they are travelling with, or just look out the window. In the USA, it seems, people tend to drill holes in buses. I can imagine people all over the States getting on buses, armed with their bus pass and a drill – like John Wayne or Terence Hill. Just one wrong move on the part of a co-passenger can lead to an uncontrollable drill fight, leaving the bus riddled with drill holes. This is not as bad as it sounds – so long as nobody aims their drill at the cable duct. Cable ducts can be highly sensitive, and if damaged could cause a break in the circuit, or the bus could end up with all functions failing

I suddenly felt uncomfortable and threatened. I decided to buy a small cordless battery-driven drill to carry with me when I take the bus to the fair the next day – and just to be on the safe side maybe also stick a folding corkscrew down my sock.

Then I noticed people gathering on the street to demonstrate against a new drill law that foresees restricting who is entitled to carry drills. And I thought to myself: that would be one way of making travelling by bus in the USA a little bit safer…

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The genius controls the chaos…

by Joachim Ritter

ItalienIf you follow international politics you will be aware of the political situation that Italy currently finds itself in. After the elections a few weeks ago, they are now facing a hung parliament: none of the parties managed to secure an absolute majority of seats. This is crippling for an industrial nation such as Italy. How did it come about? Hard to believe it’s possible, isn’t it? Believe me, I am as concerned as you are.

I was last in Italy last week, for Euroluce – which required me taking a closer look at the layout of the exhibition halls. Since I happen to be German – and therefore notoriously well organised – I was intending to work my way through the halls in a structured fashion. I must admit, it wasn’t easy to work out where the halls exactly were in numerical order. Without referring to the plan in my pocket every five minutes it was difficult to orient myself. The exercise certainly fulfilled the purpose of helping me understand what Italy’s political problem is, how Italy is structured, and how they think.

You are probably familiar with Einstein’s saying: “Only the stupid need organization, the genius controls the chaos!” This is enough to give me a minority complex. And yet I suspect that even the most Italian of Italians will admit that the way the exhibition halls in Milan are numbered is unusual to say the least.

Let’s take a closer look at the layout of the fairground. You would think that the layout and numbering of the halls is not the most challenging task to manage. It would appear, however, that the work group founded to define a system for numbering the halls went out of their way to change that.

We start counting the halls with the hall on the right. I am not sure if there is an international standard for this sort of thing … it’s probably not that important really. A colour code indicates the content of the halls. That’s a good thing. Or, let’s say, up to this point I understand the concept behind the numbering of the halls: 1,2,3,4 are positioned either side of the main “corso”. So far so good!

Blue could be an indication of the fact that we are now at Level 2 (blue) when it comes to the level of difficulty in understanding. Why? Well, halls 6,10,8 and 12 are not located next to one another, but over one another. There are not four halls, as one might suspect given the numbering, but only two – each on two levels. OK, maybe this is a cultural issue and the rest of the world has to accept it rather than interfere with something that is possibly typically Italian.

The real challenge comes when you get to Level 3 (yellow and pink in conjunction with blue). Since the exhibition halls are not aligned rhythmically along the main axis, consistent numbering is out of the question. The result is that Halls 9 and 11 are located opposite Halls 14, 18,16 and 20, which are not positioned consecutively but stacked in pairs one over the other (see Level 2).

But that is not all. All those who have managed to cope with the logic so far can be said to have reached Level 4 – because although there are halls numbered 18, 20, 22 and 24, there are no halls bearing the numbers 17, 19, 21 and 23. They are not somewhere outside the fairground, or somewhere completely different. They simply do not exist.

This is the point at which the work group might have started considering whether it wouldn’t have made more sense to resort to a different structure for numbering the exhibition halls.

Which brings me back to politics. In Italian politics it also seems to be very difficult to find some kind of consensus that suits everyone. And this will leave many still struggling to understand Italy – the majority, no doubt.

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Live and LED die

LED – Light emitting death: latest news about the OLED 007 mm of thickness

By Joachim Ritter


The latest James Bond film, Skyfall, has been showing at cinemas around the globe. I was pretty impressed by the production, especially how the scenes in Churchill’s bunker and the interim MI 6 headquarters were lit. In fact, there were a number of scenes that warranted a comment on the lighting design. It’s always the same when lighting people go to the cinema: they evaluate the lighting in all the scenes. In Skyfall, I couldn’t refrain from whispering to my neighbour: “Hey, who makes those luminaires?” only to receive the scathing comment: “Don’t you talk about anything but lighting?” Feeling insulted, I added knowledgeably: “I bet Speirs and Major did that job. They do a lot of important projects in London”. But I got no answer.

Were you aware that the next episode in 007 series is already under preparation?

After I saw Skyfall I called Iain R. (alias Ian Flemmings) to agree on the content of the next Bond movie, which is supposed to be even more realistic and reflect a bit more zeitgeist. I cannot give away everything, but here is a hint about what you can expect….

007’s opponent is a powerful man from the lighting industry who is planning to grasp the entire solid state lighting market for himself and is threatening to plunge New York City and London into darkness or alternatively to install an OLED with a diameter of 1 kilometre in the sky. His first step is to put pressure on EU politicians to phase out the incandescent lamp. As a warning sign he organises an earthquake beneath the ocean, which results in a tsunami affecting New York and London, causing damage to a nuclear reactor and eventually leading to an energy crisis. German Chancellor Mr. A. Merkel takes the consequences and initiates an energy turnaround.

We have not yet decided whether the “Bad Guy” should have a Dutch or a German accent, or perhaps be played by an Asian. It really depends how things develop.

The part of “M” will be masculinised and played by Mark M., this time with a special double M licence to light everything in a British design style. Kevan S. will be starring as MI 6’s technology freak “Q”. Emma C. is lined up for Moneypenny, and then there’s the good looking James Bond… Maybe Martin L.

I look forward to receiving your suggestions. I am open to (almost) anyone?


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True lies in the lighting world

By Joachim Ritter

A polar bear on a melting block of ice.

Perception is all about interpreting what you see as being true. The German word “Wahrnehmung” says this literally – taking something as true.

Over the last few weeks I have often referred to the general feeling of uncertainty that is currently seeping through the entire market. Too much information, too many inconsistent facts, and too many promises that cannot be kept. Facts are presented to appear more positive than they really are. In other words: the truth is being twisted at all turns with the result that false information suddenly appears to be the truth and nothing but the truth – or we are interpreting what we read, see and hear as being true (German: Wahrnehmung). The lighting industry is becoming bogged down in its own “fiction and myths”. The problem is that the claims being made are beginning to lose credibility. That is the main issue the lighting industry is facing right now…

You are not sure what I mean? I am not talking about the 100,000 – or even the 60,000 – hours an LED is supposed to last. I am talking about the way facts are distorted or covered up, which is what happened with the mercury issue in CFLs, which had the entire society fooled. I am talking about the way consumers are encouraged to develop a bad conscience if they don’t buy certain products.

Just by chance I recently hit upon some statistics about polar bears. Statistics show that it has been scientifically proven that the polar bear population is now between 20,000 and 25,000. The same set of statistics say that in the 1950s there were only 5000 polar bears in the world. Yes, you read it correctly. I repeat: the number of polar bears on our planet around 1950 was approximately 5000. And there are currently at least 20,000 living in the wild.

You don’t believe this? Google “population polar bears” and you will be surprised!

Weren’t the big lamp companies selling us the idea in their advertising campaigns a few years ago that by using energy saving lamps we were saving polar bears? To be clear: I really like bears, especially polar bears. They are big and cuddly. And I was sad to hear that polar bears are an endangered species. But what happened? Is it not true that polar bears are suffering? What are we supposed to believe and why? Is the growing population already a result of banning of the bulb? Of course not, but if it was so effective, would it mean that by using LEDs we are saving too much energy and the polar bear population is growing so fast that we need to hunt them again? Is climate change suddenly a good thing? Are we possibly using arguments which could also be construed completely differently? Too many polar bears could be a problem! So let’s increase global warming!!

Based on real facts: the main reason that polar bears were in danger was that we were shooting them. The polar bear population has recovered since the 50s because we don’t kill so many (young bears). So what has this got to do with the rise in global temperature, Mr. Al Gore? There is no correlation between global warming and polar bears, it seams.

Just to be clear. I still believe that we are undergoing a climate change and that this appears to be progressing faster than comparable changes in the history of the earth. But I can only believe what is told to me and I have to trust researchers. This case is again proof of the fact that I can’t trust politicians… or the lighting industry. It is not my job to make analyses between climate change and polar bears. But it is also not up to lamp companies to do so. Let’s keep to the facts.

By the way in mediaeval times the world was globally warmer than now. It was so warm that when the Vikings settled in Greenland they farmed and grew corn there. That is why this island is called Greenland.

I hope that I am not destroying your view of the world or unnerving you because you don’t know what to believe. Who can we trust and why? Did the lamp industry purposefully set about giving us a bad conscience about polar bears in order to sell more CFLs? Would there be any reason to invest in efficient products if global warming was not such a bad thing or at least part of a normal process on earth? Would the Vikings have bought CFLs if they had known that this would turn Greenland into a big island of ice? I don’t have the answers. Who knows? What are the facts?

Maybe this is too much for you to take. So let us consider another example of bending the truth within the lighting industry to make things appear better than they are.

The lighting industry openly offers fluorescent luminaires with an efficiency rating of up to 125%. How is this possible? Have they made a mistake? Is it possible to manufacture a fluorescent batten with an efficiency rating of over 100 %? This would mean that by turning on a luminaire you would have more energy than you need.

When it comes to the optical efficiency of T5 fluorescent lamps, it is possible to achieve an efficiency rating of over 100%: T5 lamps are measured at a temperature of 25° in the laboratory – not installed in a luminaire. When installed in a luminaire, the ambient temperature for the lamp can be considerably higher. At exactly 35° a T5 lamp will produce more light, thus resulting in an efficiency rating of over 100%. The point of reference is changed slightly.

Well, there might be experts who are aware of this, but most might not. It only seems to be logical if you have the right know-how. Can clients follow this? I don’t think so. And that is why they opt for these products. They look beyond any apparently inconsistent information and are impressed by products that have a higher light output. They are not concerned whether this makes sense or not, they have done their best for the environment – and have maybe even saved some polar bears. Or they demand LEDs. It all sounds great, but maybe it is not the truth…

I would suggest it is time to get serious and to stop bending the truth. Being honest is not a bad thing and in the end it will pay off, because people will trust you.

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A wolf in sheep’s clothing

High risk of breaking? Photo: Petr Krejci

At some stage in the future we will acknowledge the errors of the past and ask ourselves: How the devil did we allow that to happen? What on earth possessed us to use asbestos when building our houses, only to ban its use a few years later when it was discovered that it could cause heart disease and lung cancer. Buildings constructed using asbestos are highly contaminated and the removal of the hazardous material can only be performed by workers wearing respirators equipped with special filters. Asbestos-containing materials are rated as hazardous waste and must be disposed of with care. Designers under the age of 30 will probably not even remember asbestos and say that downplaying hazardous materials in this fashion would not be possible today. And yet in the course of some of the discussions that hold sway in the lighting industry we are indeed hearing terms such as: contaminated, hazardous waste, respirator …

Yes, I am talking about a compact fluorescent lamp hidden in a pretty nice formal product design. Are we not aware of the fact that the smallest amount of mercury can irrevocably destroy the human nervous system? Can we not imagine a designed compact fluorescent lamp hanging above the kitchen table breaking and disseminating highly poisonous gases? Would you willingly install a compact fluorescent lamp in your living room without feeling the tiniest inkling of concern? Is a cute-shaped light source incapable of being “evil”?

How can it be that light sources containing dangerous amounts of mercury can be designed to be fascinatingly cute and are then classified as being design objects? How is it possible that a lamp containing acutely poisonous chemicals can win a Brit Insurance Design Award (2011) and be displayed in a design museum without anyone becoming remotely concerned?

Is it not the ethical responsibility of every single designer, let alone one journalist, to inform and warn users of the inherent risks of lamps of this kind? Surely, designers or sales people render themselves co-responsible for any health damage arising from using such lamps when the risks are played down or suppressed. The manufacturer has covered his legal responsibility by including on his website advice as to what to do in the case of lamp breakage. Do your clients always read manufacturers’ digital small print? Is it not up to the designer to communicate to the users how to behave in an emergency?

Here are the instructions recommended by a manufacturer, should a compact fluorescent lamp break. To be honest, it does not really sound as harmless as the manufacturer would like us to believe! What housewife will memorize these instructions and act accordingly in an emergency? What child is aware of these dangers and what they are supposed to do if there is no grown-up in the house when a lamp breaks?

Does it make sense? Risk of breakage when cleaning?

It looks like a children’s birthday party…













While low energy light bulbs do contain small traces of mercury, a broken bulb is very unlikely to pose a health hazard. For it to be dangerous you would need to break many bulbs at the same time in a small, unventilated room – which is unlikely to happen.
Should your Plumen break, follow these simple instructions.
– Open the windows and air the room.
– When you return, sweep the broken bulb up using a broom (do not use a vacuum cleaner). Use a wet cloth to wipe up the rest.
– Place all the parts of the broken Plumen in a plastic bag and close the bag tightly.
– Then place the bulb in a rigid container (like a cardboard box).
Recycle the Plumen – do not throw it in the bin. To find out how to best recycle the broken Plumen, please click here.“

Don’t stumble!




Here we have a case of complete and utter ignorance. I can only hope that someone will give him a nudge very quickly and reveal the truth about the CFL and its inherent risks. The shapes a designer of this kind of product has created are without doubt interesting and creative. The stupid thing is that the contents of the lamp are a problem, and the shape of it cannot do anything to change that. It’s a bit like draping a sheepskin over a wolf and pretending it’s a grandmother – or what was that story again…?

Worse than not being properly informed is the fact that having had an award bestowed upon it, a product like this has gained even more acceptance than the iPad!! Even if the North American market has been taken by storm by the design, and the sales are likely to soar because consumers are just as ignorant as the designer and the Brit Insurance Design Awards jury, we would recommend not overestimating these reactions and having more faith in Apple. According to Forbes, Apple is still rated high on their list of the “World’s Most Valuable Companies”. This success is based on a philosophy and not on a speedy design for a non-laudable product.

The annual Brit Insurance Design Awards hosted by London’s Design Museum is promoted as being “the Oscars of the design world”. The competition showcases “the most innovative and forward-thinking” designs from around the world, spanning seven categories from architecture, fashion and furniture, to graphics, interactive, product and transport. The overall winner for 2011 was the Plumen 001, the world’s first energy-saving designer light bulb, which “beat the likes of Apple’s iPad and Dyson’s air multiplier fan to the top spot”. This un-usual bulb was the creation of British Industrial designer Samuel Wilkinson in collaboration with London design brand Hulger.

Whatever form a TC-L takes, the light it emits remains fluorescent light, the mercury content remains mercury, electronic components remain electronic components, and phenol remains phenol. Only the form of the light source has changed and that can be best seen when they are switched off.

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Hello my friend!

By Joachim Ritter










Do you also often get emails from people who sound friendly but who you can’t seem to recall? Or perhaps you have no friends and are a little thrown out that someone is contacting you at all? Do you wonder “How the devil does he know me?” Do you then start to doubt your own memory: mmmh, did we meet at Light+Building? Had I maybe had one too many and made some promises I cannot keep…? I can put your mind at rest. I don’t think any of the above is true. Nor is it true that you have missed the chance to make a mega deal by not responding to an offer from a former African minister to temporarily deposit US$ 80,000,000 in your bank account.

It must be very, very easy to make business. I send someone in another part of the earth an email with my (dubious) offer, address the recipient as my “Friend” and wait for … orders, jobs, business. A simple, but highly lucrative business model, it would seem. In case you have not ever received an email of this kind, here is an authentic example (names and telephone number have been changed, of course):

Hello my friend,
Here are our LED tunnel lights pictures below, these lights can be from 50W to 400W, and the input voltage can be 85-265vac, or 100-277vac, or 200-480vac.
And the beam angle could be 60deg, and 120deg.
If you like then I can send to you our pricelist and specs.
Best Regards
Efes Engineering Ltd
F:+86 xxx yyyy82655
T:+86 xxx yyyy6484

Strange! I didn’t feel any urge to ask for a “pricelist und specs”, although ordering products through such distribution channels would appear to be very cost-effective and the price per unit sensational.

Why doesn’t it work when I send my offers to loads and loads of addresses by email? Don’t I have the right kind of offer? Don’t I have any Friends I can write to? No, I must admit I have a different perception of how lighting designers select products, and a different way of doing business. It’s not easy to be a successful businessman. If that were so, everyone would be doing it. But that is not the case. Many may try, and they do so using the simplest of means…

It is as if everyone would claim he/she is a lighting designer. If you enter the search term “Lighting Designer” in LinkedIn, you will get a list of over 76,264 people – status on 12.10.2012 at 15:25. Just ten minutes later the list had extended to 76,280. It included 46,000 in the USA, with 6052 contacts in New York City alone. In the UK the list comprised 6600. Two days ago I made the same search and was presented with a list of 66,000 lighting designers. What is the difference between a lighting designer and a supplier of lighting products from Asia? Neither of them really needs to prove how professional or serious he is, and is free to offer his services anywhere.

I decided to answer the email from my Friend:

Dear Friend,
Thank you for asking. I am really fine. Since we saw each other last, a lot has happened. I installed your sample fixtures in a mock-up and my client was really surprised. He never believed that fixtures could be sooo cheap. He agreed that the effect was not really what we discussed in the design process. But he really did not care that much. He only said: “Cheap is good!” I said: “Yes, it is a special offer from a special friend in Asia.” Unfortunately I can’t give you an order right now. The client has another 625 companies to check who have also offered cheap products. If you had offered high-quality products instead of cheap ones, that would have been much easier. There are only very, very few reliable companies – practically no competition.

See you again in Frankfurt 2014. I hope my client will be through the process then.
Best regards

And today I received an e-mail that began…
Dear My Friend,
I am Bruce from Ningbo…

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Stop CFLs: Time to focus on the future

The motto of PLDC 2013 is “point of no return”. This motto was chosen because of the opportunities on the market right now to make a major step in defining the profession of a lighting designer. But this motto could also be linked to other parts of the lighting industry…

On 1st September, 2012 the next step to ban the light bulb was made, in Europe at least. I would not say that I am in favour of banning the bulb, because I still believe that the light emitted by an incandescent lamp is wonderful – like the light from an open fire or a candle, which has not been banned.

But I am against CLFs. This is for health reasons and because of their high-risk impact for humans and the environment if handled wrongly, which is normally the case. I must admit that I still have a large number of incandescent lamps in my cellar, like many others from the lighting industry. But to be honest, LED solutions have also found their way into my private home. For me they work: I even sometimes leave the light on when not necessary because of the low energy consumption.

Those who know me personally can imagine what this change of attitude means. To be frank, I think that the energy invested in fighting for the incandescent should be redirected to fighting for the right use and development of LED technology, including market structures. Whatever happens, there is no way that we will return to incandescents in the private consumer marketplace. Maybe incandescents will still be applied for art installations, medical purposes to help people suffering from specific ailments maintain or regain health, but nobody is ever going to turn back the wheel.

One thing is for sure, CFLs are not an acceptable solution for replacing incandescents and in the private sector, LEDs are certainly already an option.

Therefore all efforts and discussions need to be channelled into restructuring the market in a professional way, developing the LED, but also making it available at a reasonable price so it can compete with CFLs and still work reliably. I also have to say that the LED lamps I have in my home were samples supplied by manufacturers for me to test. So testing SSL in my home did not involve high costs – or any costs actually! I admit that I have not yet bought an LED light source. 30 euros is way over my budget. And I can still use the incandescents from my cellar, which only cost me one euro each.

PLDC will be the place to discuss this issue and sound out the next steps towards a future of better lighting. For this topic it will be also the point of no return.

Joachim Ritter

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