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Smart Lighting Engineering Research Center

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NSF Engineering Research Center for Smart Lighting  (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute)

Research Focus & Anticipated Benefits

SMART LIGHTING research is organized in three major Research Thrusts: (1) System Applications (2) Device Technology and (3) Novel Materials.

Core components of the Systems Applications Thrust are three testbeds that concern bio-imaging systems, indoor and outdoor communication systems, and energy-aware lighting and display systems. The systems applications will demonstrate unprecedented functionalities and capabilities that are not feasible with conventional light sources. The functionality of the systems testbeds is enabled by the unique controllability of the SMART LIGHTING devices that are being developed under the Device Technology Thrust. Accordingly the Device Thrust focuses on the controllability and efficiency of smart lighting devices. The Novel Materials Thrust, through innovation in nano-technology and metamaterials, supports the Device and Systems thrusts.

An example of the Systems thrust is a new way to observe live cell mitosis with multiple-color fluorophores over long periods to gain unprecedented amount of information on cellular processes under various environmental conditions. This is achieved by optimally adjusting the light spectra and dosage based on the cell image feedback to avoid photo-damage of the cells and photo-bleaching of the fluorophores. An example of the Device thrust is the focus on efficiency droop, which is the single most important problem in solid-state lighting technology. New approaches have made the SMART LIGHTING ERC team the leading force in low-droop devices. Finally, an example of the Materials thrust is a nano-column emitter which promises low defect densities as well as high light-extraction efficiency.

The Lighting Research Center (LRC) at Rensselaer is a close partner with the SMART LIGHTING ERC. It provides unique resources and capabilities in lighting research, education, and industrial outreach. The LRC participates in the ERC research related to lighting and health and supports ERC in technology innovation and commercialization.

Education & Outreach

To support the Center's vision, the ERC education program seeks to prepare an interdisciplinary community of students for successful competition in the global economy. ERC students engage in hands-on and minds-on learning in a rigorous and challenging academic environment, with problem-based learning experiences that connect fundamental engineering knowledge from a variety of disciplines; best practices in design, product development, and entrepreneurship; and contemporary engineering tools. A systems approach to framing and solving problems is followed, integrating sound technical fundamentals, business considerations, understanding of social and environmental impacts, and the needs of a technical workforce prepared to make difficult systems-level tradeoffs.

The SMART LIGHTING Education, Outreach, and Diversity program plans are highly interconnected within our educational culture, which features: (1) exceptional research based on strong fundamental science; (2) active, regular engagement with industry, research labs, domestic and international universities, K-14 schools, and museums; and (3) commitment to an ever more diverse student body and workforce. Based on the Mobile Studio and other educational materials, we are developing a portfolio of learning modules that can be utilized at all educational levels in all educational venues and that incorporate significant experimentation and numerical modeling in addition to traditional paper-and-pencil problem solving.

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  • Image from a National Science Foundation-funded ERC.
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