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Award Detail

Doing Business As Name:Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
  • Robert F Karlicek
  • (518) 276-3310
  • Thomas D Little
  • Steven R. J. Brueck
Award Date:09/12/2008
Estimated Total Award Amount: $ 18,500,000
Funds Obligated to Date: $ 32,729,057
  • FY 2016=$2,684,466
  • FY 2012=$3,750,000
  • FY 2013=$4,000,000
  • FY 2011=$5,125,000
  • FY 2015=$4,000,000
  • FY 2014=$4,000,000
  • FY 2017=$1,795,600
  • FY 2009=$2,298,991
  • FY 2010=$1,825,000
  • FY 2008=$3,250,000
Start Date:09/01/2008
End Date:02/28/2019
Transaction Type: Cooperative Agreements
Awarding Agency Code:4900
Funding Agency Code:4900
CFDA Number:47.041
Primary Program Source:040100 NSF RESEARCH & RELATED ACTIVIT
Award Title or Description:NSF Engineering Research Center for Smart Lighting
Federal Award ID Number:0812056
DUNS ID:002430742
Parent DUNS ID:002430742
Program:ERC-Eng Research Centers
Program Officer:
  • Deborah Jackson
  • (703) 292-7499

Awardee Location

Street:110 8TH ST
Awardee Cong. District:20

Primary Place of Performance

Organization Name:Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Street:110 8TH ST
Cong. District:20

Abstract at Time of Award

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI, lead institution), the University of New Mexico (UNM), and Boston University (BU) are jointly proposing to establish an Engineering Research Center for Smart Lighting under the direction of Fred Schubert, Department of Electrical, Computer, and Systems Engineering. The integrated research, education, and technology transfer of the Smart Lighting ERC will demonstrate revolutionary lighting systems for rapid diagnostic bio-imaging, high-efficiency displays, safer transportation, and novel modes of communication. The critical enabler for advanced lighting systems will be a new generation of smart light sources whose spectral composition, color temperature, polarization, spatial, and temporal modulation properties are fully controllable and tunable. Smart light sources and advanced lighting systems will result in tremendous benefits to society and humankind, including: Fundamental advances in biotechnology for rapid and highly specific identification of cells. Brilliant displays with high efficiency and large color gamut enabled by polarized emitters. Increased safety in transportation systems through the implementation of ambient intelligence. Novel modes of communication, networking, and sensing. Reduced pollution and global warming through energy-conserving, mercury-free lighting. Reduced dependency on sleep-inducing pharmaceuticals, reduced risk of cancer, and support of the natural circadian rhythm, thereby enabling higher productivity and a better quality of life. These benefits will be realized through the systematic exploration and development of smart-lighting principles in three vertically integrated research thrusts: (1) novel materials, (2) device technology, and (3) system applications and impacts. As envisioned, the center will create a unique and focused program in which faculty and students from a wide range of disciplines come together with industry, government, and non-government agencies to work toward the following objectives: Conduct fundamental research to develop Smart Lighting. A strategic analysis has identified the critical attributes of future controllable light sources, and their underlying materials technology necessary to enable new and revolutionary functionalities that go far beyond present capabilities. At the device level,these attributes include polarization control, novel low- and high-index nanostructured materials, nanoepitaxial methods, photonic crystals, and novel types of phosphor distributions. These core innovations will be integrated into working devices and systems that are adaptable, controllable, and manufacturable. Testbed systems that use the devices will demonstrate advances in biomedical, display, transportation, and network communication technologies. Establish a multi-faceted, cross-disciplinary education and training program in Smart Lighting for students and professionals. The hands-on special education program Science You Can See, to be integrated with ERC educational materials, will increase the interest of a broad and minority-rich pre-college and undergraduate audience in science and engineering. Rapidly transfer knowledge to the commercial sector and commercialize validated products. This will be achieved by working side-by-side with established firms and small startup companies in the concept,development, and validation stages of smart-lighting products. Providing industry with rapid access to key results while aggressively pursuing knowledge transfer and securing intellectual property. Increase diversity through a focused effort to attract, educate, and advance women and underrepresented and disadvantaged minorities within the ERC pre-college, undergraduate, and graduate programs, and, ultimately, enable successful careers in Smart Lighting and related industries. Intellectual Merit: The ERC will establish a world-class program in Smart Lighting that will dominate scientific discovery and technological innovation in a new area of photonics. Research and education programs will lead to revolutionary advances in fields as diverse as biotechnology, display, transportation, and networked communications technologies. Broader Impact: The ERC, through rapid commercialization, interactive education programs, and diversity outreach programs, will increase the competitiveness of US industry and make Smart Lighting products and benefits available worldwide. Additional key participation will come from strategic, corporate, and foreign academic partners. Training programs on entrepreneurship, intellectual property, marketing, and unintended consequences will create a culture of innovation and broaden the scope of research.

Project Outcomes Report


This Project Outcomes Report for the General Public is displayed verbatim as submitted by the Principal Investigator (PI) for this award. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this Report are those of the PI and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation; NSF has not approved or endorsed its content.

Center for Lighting Enabled Systems & Applications (LESA)

The invention of the light emitting diode (LED) has led to new lighting technology that is replacing incandescent and fluorescent tube lighting with energy efficient ?solid state lighting? (SSL).  The Center for Lighting Enabled Systems and Applications (LESA), originally named the Smart Lighting Engineering Research Center (ERC), is developing broad new lighting system capabilities enabled by LEDs. By integrating digitized, color tunable LED lighting with novel reflected light sensors and advanced control and data management systems, LESA has demonstrated how color and digitized illumination can create energy efficient, privacy-preserving ?lighting systems that think? with applications in healthcare and horticulture, energy efficient building systems, and human wellness and productivity.

LESA?s research is divided into three main areas: (1) Advanced LED devices and optical materials for efficient illumination systems, (2) Light sensors that precisely measure how lighting is distributed throughout any illuminated space, and (3) Advanced control systems that interpret the light sensor data for a wide range of transformative value added services. The Center?s technical output and intellectual merit has been described in over 422 peer-reviewed journal papers and over 220 peer-reviewed conference proceedings.  Further, 23 patents have been awarded to faculty members of the LESA ERC.

LESA has developed several advanced testbeds that integrate research findings to demonstrate real world applications.

  • LESA?s Smart Conference Room Testbed is an autonomously operated meeting space.  Special sensors detect the person count and location and whether they are sitting, standing or on the ground, and then estimates the amount and type of lighting needed for the sensed activity. Since no cameras are used, individuals cannot be identified.  U.S. Patent 9,766,123 has been issued to LESA for its plenoptic light field sensors that can simultaneously resolve spectrum, angle of arrival, light intensity and data streams for fully automatic control.
  • LESA?s Hospital Room Testbed includes the ability to change light spectrum and intensity, along with sensors that will let researchers estimate the amount and color of light entering the human eye.  These testbeds are already located at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and the University of New Mexico Health Science Center.  The testbeds can be used to study patient response to lighting ? for example to study recovery time, or how a patient with traumatic brain injury might respond to different lighting scenarios.
  • LESA?s Lighting for Communications testbed is located at Boston University and focuses on visible light communications (VLC), also call LiFi.  VLC provides high speed wireless data access with low power use and does not interfere with current radio frequency (RF) systems.  A U.S patent (9,621,268) issued to LESA researchers helps to overcome the bandwidth limitations of LEDs, providing a 3x to 5x improvement in data rates over current methods. Light based communications is becoming an important part of 5G and future wireless communications platforms.
  • LESA?s Control Environment Agriculture testbed is developing low-cost biosensors to monitor plant stress so that the color and intensity of lighting can be automatically adjusted to maximize plant growth rates and nutritional value.

The Center graduated 59 students with doctoral degrees.  Of these, 33 had jobs working for industry upon graduation (9 were hired by LESA industry member companies), and 15 went on to academic institutions.  The Center maintains a strong industrial member base with an industrial advisory board, insuring that its research on advanced lighting systems and applications remains relevant.

LESA has made fundamental improvements to the ERC Education and Outreach programs through the development of its ?Engineering Ambassadors? program, where students lead students with LESA developed STEM materials. By having graduate students teach undergrads, undergrads teach high school students, and high school young scholars teach middle and primary school STEM content, students at all grade levels can be much more engaged. LESA has also supported and been supported by investigations of new award-winning STEM pedagogy using low cost, mobile electronic ?laboratories? that plug into laptop computers, so that students can use the kind of electronics they will see during their education and professional careers. LESA?s findings show that these students are not only grounded in technical knowledge, but are also given systems perspectives and strategies for lifelong learning.

LESA has played a strong diversity leadership role by working closely with a coalition of 13 HBCU ECE programs spread throughout the US to fundamentally change the way they deliver their undergraduate electrical engineering education. This program is now sustainable, and expanding to other universities that focus on other underserved minority populations (Hispanic, Native American). By helping to expand engagement with the untapped engineering potential in these underserved populations, bringing state-of-the-art teaching and tools to these universities will continue to be of critical importance to the economic health and wellbeing of all people.


Last Modified: 05/28/2019
Modified by: Robert F Karlicek

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