Where’s the Silver Lining?

Jason Lomberg, North American Editor, PSD


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Like most sectors, the lighting industry has chafed under the coronavirus. Lightfair was cancelled. Light + Building, Lightovation, and LEDucation were cancelled. Display Week was moved from June to August (where it remains in jeopardy).

One of our feel-good stories from earlier in the year is a bummer in hindsight -- Midstate Energy partnered with Flagstaff Unified School District to provide infrastructure and lighting upgrades, leading to improved energy and operational efficiency. But Arizona’s schools are closed through the summer, so Flagstaff, AZ won’t get to appreciate the improvements.

And if you really want to feel depressed (sorry), a company that bears the name of the guy who created the incandescent light bulb – Edison Price Lighting – just filed for Chapter 11. Like many businesses, theirs was decimated by COVID-19 – according to the company, they’d been shut down since March and hadn’t shipped any product in seven weeks.

Of course, I needn’t stress China’s importance to all of this (but I will) – and not just the coronavirus, itself. China is the world’s dirty little (and worst-kept) manufacturing secret, and recent events took a COVID-sized chunk out of that.

China is actually closer to normalcy than we are – students in Wuhan returned to school – but with so many companies leaning on China for cheap labor and chips and components for such diverse applications as photovoltaics and solid-state lighting, a minor kink in production (or a worldwide pandemic that likely originated there) is bound to have serious repercussions.

So where’s the silver lining? Strictly speaking, there isn’t one – nothing I write will put our mental spreadsheet in the black. But it won’t stop me from trying. And as per usual, I look inward for some positive vibes – our industry is a giant plate of comfort food.

Researchers from Eindhoven University of Technology recently developed a silicon, light-emitting alloy, long-considered the 'Holy Grail' of microelectronics. The university is now trying to integrate silicon lasers into current chips.

King Abdullah University of Science & Technology (KAUST) is working on a neat system to transmit light and energy to underwater energy devices, while the Paul Scherrer Institute has made great strides towards a new material for organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs).

Meanwhile, our friends and colleagues at their home-based workbenches are continuing to push the optoelectronics envelope with more innovations than I could possibly list here. We might be quarantined, but engineers are still solving problems and designing their way onto powersystemsdesign.com and our print mag.

Stay healthy and safe!