Smarter LED lights that are better for our health

An EU-funded project is developing smart luminaires that are customised, have longer lifespans, and can improve our moods and productivity. This could make us healthier and boost the competitiveness and eco-friendliness of Europe's lighting industry.

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Countries
Countries
  Algeria
  Argentina
  Australia
  Austria
  Bangladesh
  Belarus
  Belgium
  Benin
  Bolivia
  Bosnia and Herzegovina
  Brazil
  Bulgaria
  Burkina Faso
  Cambodia
  Cameroon
  Canada
  Cape Verde
  Chile
  China
  Colombia
  Costa Rica
  Croatia
  Cyprus
  Czechia
  Denmark
  Ecuador
  Egypt
  Estonia
  Ethiopia
  Faroe Islands
  Finland
  France
  French Polynesia
  Georgia


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Published: 21 June 2019  
Related theme(s) and subtheme(s)
EnergyRational energy use  |  Reliability of supply
EnvironmentClean technology and recycling  |  Health & environment  |  Sustainable development  |  Urban living
Industrial researchMaterials & products
Innovation
Research policyHorizon 2020
Countries involved in the project described in the article
Austria  |  Germany  |  Italy  |  Spain
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Smarter LED lights that are better for our health

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© dglavinova #76331619, source: stock.adobe.com 2019

LED lights are energy-efficient; they last longer than normal lighting and are more durable, although they produce a lot of electronic waste. There is currently a move towards making LED lights better for our health by matching the body’s circadian rhythm to improve alertness and sleep patterns. But smart lighting raises the complexity and cost of production, and the global LED lighting industry is crowded and highly competitive.

The EU-funded REPRO-LIGHT project is finding ways to make production more sustainable and speed up development while, at the same time, helping to contribute to our health and well-being.

It is focusing on three areas: improving lighting quality by exploiting possible health effects using intelligent LED lights which adjust to changes in the environment, and optimising the life cycle of lighting systems from production to disposal. It also aims to make components reusable and recyclable.

The project team is developing prototypes, with patents expected to be registered soon. To determine the needs of consumers and industry stakeholders and influence the design of new lights, it has also conducted two surveys.

‘Light can positively influence an individual’s ability to sustain attention and cognitive performance during daytime and at night. In addition, the light patterns an employee experiences during the daytime may affect his or her sleep patterns. With the individual dynamic lighting of the REPRO-LIGHT system, a worker’s circadian rhythm is stabilised,’ says Wilfried Pohl, head of research at project leader Bartenbach GmbH.

Working on better lighting

Because lighting affects our perceptions and moods, it also impacts our health and productivity. Light controls the body’s circadian rhythm; it promotes specific chemical reactions and effects production of the hormone melatonin which plays a role in sleep. Light can positively influence a person’s ability to sustain attention both day and night. Light patterns experienced during the day may also affect sleep patterns.

Lighting in work places is often designed to minimise visual discomfort rather than consider the negative physiological and neurobehavioral effects artificial lighting has on humans. There is a difference between natural and artificial light in terms of colour, intensity and light dynamics. Outside on a sunny day a person may be exposed to 100 000 lux (measure of light intensity); indoors and in offices this is reduced to 500 lux, and in schools it falls to 300 lux of light. As people spend 90 % of their time indoors, most of the time they are living in biological darkness. Light deficiency can have negative effects, such as fatigue and attention deficit.

REPRO-LIGHT is designing more human-centric lighting to provide the right light for our activities, at the right place and at the right time, according to our needs. Such lighting has been found to boost an employee’s alertness and vitality during the day and night, sustaining attention and cognitive performance. This increases productivity at work, while reducing the number of errors, accidents and sick days.

REPRO-LIGHT conducted a survey of 1 100 workers in Germany, Italy, Spain and Austria to determine their lighting needs and how they impact their health and well-being. More than half of the respondents said they would like better workplace lighting; over 90 % felt work lighting affected their mood; 87 % said it impacted their performance; and 92 % said it influenced their alertness at work. The majority said they would like lighting which automatically adapts to individual needs and changes colour when it gets dark outside.

The survey also showed that women are more inclined to encourage better workplace lighting and workers over 50 have a greater desire for better lighting. More than half the respondents said lighting aesthetics are important.

The REPRO-LIGHT project will integrate the results into the design of prototype lights which will be tested in an office environment in Spain, Austria and Germany, and an industrial building in Germany.

A brighter future

Improvements in the manufacture of LED lights will save money, materials and energy by combining separate production processes and introducing new techniques, including 3D printing.

REPRO-LIGHT is developing lights with components adapted to four environments: industry, office and healthcare. The LEDs produced will have a low environmental impact using components which are easy to remove, reusable and customisable.

In support of the circular economy, the team will carry out a life-cycle analysis of the products with the aim of minimising electronic waste and the use of rare raw materials. It will also reduce the use of wires and circuit boards and cut energy consumption by making the lights dimmable and sensitive to natural light.

‘There is a will by the project partners to create the best lighting solution for end-users and in terms of sustainability. To achieve this, serious research is being carried out to really understand the problem first,’ says Pohl. ‘I think this is a big achievement – to create that much knowledge in an industry-driven project.’

Project details

  • Project acronym: REPRO-LIGHT
  • Participants: Austria (Coordinator), Spain, Germany, Italy
  • Project N°: 768780
  • Total costs: € 5 968 433
  • EU contribution: € 4 345 418
  • Duration: October 2017 to September 2020

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