Lab news: rare-earth-reduced white LEDs

The “ORCA” project is researching and developing new materials for generating light

Rare-earth metals, which are needed for dyes and phosphor converters in light emitting diodes, are a finite resource. Osram Opto Semiconductors, as one of four partners in the “ORCA” project, is therefore researching and developing new types of organic dyes and inorganic phosphor converters. The aim of this project, which began on May, 2016, is to reduce the volume of these materials by developing new solutions, and to encourage the implementation of these solutions in actual production.

ORCAThe purpose of the “ORCA” project, which is being funded by the German Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) as part of the “Material Innovations for Industry and Society (WING): Material for Resource-Efficient Industry and Society (MatRessource)” initiative, is to produce a new generation of white light LEDs. The project is scheduled to run for three years and will involve research and development work on new organic dyes and inorganic phosphor converters for LEDs in order to achieve a sustainable reduction in the quantity of rare earth materials required. They should be highly efficient and cost-effective and have a long lifespan. In the long term, LEDs with these materials should be made available to the entire lighting market.

The consortium, comprising Osram Opto Semiconductors, BASF SE, Osram and the University of Saarland, covers the entire value added chain. BASF SE, Osram and the University of Saarland are working together to research, analyze and develop new resource-saving converter materials, while Osram Opto Semiconductors is responsible for component design and researching durable emitters and modules that offer a stable color.

Up to now, white light has been generated primarily by means of blue LEDs and broadband emitting conversion materials. Its share of the solid-state lighting market is more than 90 percent. In order to achieve the desired high LED color quality special phosphors in red and green and sometimes also additional red LEDs are used. Since the conversion materials consist largely of rare earth metals (up to 75 percent) which are virtually absent from Europe and in short supply worldwide, there is an urgent need for alternatives for dyes and phosphors.