Tunable white light gives users the flexibility to experiment with lighting within their environment in ways we were not able to do a decade ago, particularly with just one, singular light source. The consistent show of this technology in lighting events this year is evidence of its rising demand.
LED luminaires with the ability to deliver varying light color have been on the architectural lighting market for some time now. Known as color-tunable products, these are available in three basic categories: dim-to-warm, white-tunable and full-color tunable. Improved efficacy, colors, controls and capabilities have now expanded the range of potential applications with tunable white technology holding a steadfast interest among lighting companies.
Basic Understanding of Tunable White Technology
Tunable White technology allows the color temperature of an LED fixture to be ‘tuned’ from cool to warm. Some white-tunable products have two sets of controllable phosphor-coated LEDs: one with a warm-white color (usually around 2700K) and the second with a cool-white color (usually 5000K to 6500K). By individually raising and lowering the output of the two colored “LED primaries”, white colors between the two color points can be created along the straight line that connects them on a chromaticity diagram. Depending on where the mixed colors of white lie relative to the blackbody curve, the color of white light will either appear pinkish or purplish as it tracks from one CCT to the next.
There are also white-tunable products that use three or more LED primaries, in which case they may have the capability to produce a wider range of colors than just different CCTs of white.
A critical element in white-tuning systems is controls. A white-tuning system requires separate power for the LED driver and for the control signal. This means a separate dimmer for each control signal: one for power and intensity level and a second for color. The most common control protocols are 0-10V, DMX, DALI, a proprietary controller and an open source control mechanism. One of the most important considerations when determining how to pair controls is ensuring they can compliment and work in sync with the entire building’s main controls system.
Demonstrating how the control system, the luminaire and the user interface integrate and coordinate seamlessly with one another will serve as the biggest advantage to a user.
With the right color temperature and illumination achieved through white tuning, it is possible to feel comfortable despite artificial lighting in different environments such as working in an office, studying at school or recovering in a hospital. Some of the advantages tunable white light provides include:
Assist with behavior control: Studies suggest that the color and intensity of light can be modified to elongate concentration and increase productivity of students.
Provide cooling or warming to a room: A cooler-colored light can psychologically make a room feel cooler or the reverse.
Support the human circadian system: Light plays a key role in setting and regulating the body’s biological clock. By changing the color and intensity of light, it can affect moods, alertness and health. In an office environment, synchronizing circadian rhythms with LED lighting and control technology can lead to improved productivity, better moods and overall happier workplaces.
Assist with medical conditions: In healthcare, there has been a lot of research showing the positive effect tunable white light has on improving patient healing and recovery times. Medical professionals can also use it to treat jet lag, sleep disorders, and other conditions.
Provide interior design and functionality options: Tunable technology is useful when a space undergoes an interior-design remodeling or a theme change or to match the preferences of new home owners.
Vary color temperatures within a given application: For retailers, art galleries and museums, the visual appearance of a product or a work of art can be greatly enhanced by this type of lighting. For example in a retail store, displays showcasing different products side by side can be individually highlighted using the right color tone.
In Recent News
Electronics manufacturing company Acuity Brands recently released BLT Series Tunable LED Luminaire designed for education applications. The newest Mainstream Dynamic lighting offering is the first fully digital tunable white solution to be powered by nTune(TM) technology. nTune technology enables digital control of color temperature and intensity. This new controls solution utilizes the nLight® network from Acuity Controls to deliver tunable white lighting in an economical luminaire with repeatable, consistent performance. The fully integrated system features a full line of nLight wall stations, including optional pre-set wall pods available with four default productivity settings that support common learning environments and allows teachers to create task-specific lighting effects at the touch of a button.
Rayben Technologies, innovator of thermal PCB solutions for LED lighting, has developed a tunable white LED module for spot lighting. The new LSD-Duo series uses Rayben patented smart ceramic multi-layer PCB technology, MHE®901, the benefits of which include high thermal conductivity (170W/mK), high breakdown voltage resistant (up-to 15kV) and multi-layer (up-to 10 layers) circuit design. LSD-Duo series allows spot lighting fixture manufacturers to produce tunable white over the range of 2700K to 6500K in narrow viewing angle, such as 10, 24 and 36 degree. Lifetime of modules is 50k hours.
Also in the spotlight for their developments in white tunable technology include Eldoled and Xicato who have put an end to the potential flicker problem through their product developments.
Heading in the Right Direction
In a recent interview, Bonnie Littman, president, USAI Lighting when asked about LED tunable white lighting opined that as a cutting-edge technology which can provide a solution for many of the modern-day challenges, staying informed can help prevent costly mistakes, both in the field and in design.
Increasing research done on the effects of tunable white light on health, productivity and more is pushing the technology to be the future game changer in LED lighting.