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Eye on the Prize

The U.S. Department of Energy has started a race for the prize – actually, three races for three prizes – that promises engineers the glory they dream of. Called the Bright Tomorrow Lighting Competition, or L Prize, the competition accepts entries of solid-state lighting products which have the technical potential to qualify as a replacement for either a 60-W incandescent or a PAR type38 halogen lamp. The DOE also plans to have a "21st Century Lamp" category at some future date, but have yet to announce criteria for this race.

Winning a prize won’t be easy. For the 60-W incandescent challenge, the DOE is looking for an SSL bulb that consumes less than 10 W and produces more than 900 lm, meaning it will have to have an efficacy greater than 90 lm/W. It will also have to have a color-rendering index (CRI) greater than 90 and provide warm white light (a color temperature between 2,700 and 3,000 K). Additionally, it will have to burn for more than 25,000 hours. Obviously, winning the prize will require designers to really push the curve.

To participate in the competition, entrants will have to provide a letter of intent, and follow up with a complete entry package that includes required technical information, 2,000 product samples, and a commercial mass production and distribution plan. The submitted products will first be tested by independent laboratories to validate their performance and then the L Prize technical review committee will assess the technical information provided, test results, and manufacturing capabilities. Once the assessment is complete, the bulbs will be tested to see that they retain brightness over time, while the DOE and utility program partners coordinate field assessments and conduct stress testing, subjecting products to extreme conditions.

Then comes the fame and fortune part: the first entrant to successfully run this gauntlet will be awarded a cash prize, and their product will be promoted by the L Prize Partners, which currently consists of 31 utilities and energy-efficiency organizations in North America. (Full details on the L Price can be found at