Innovating Smarter Lighting Systems and a Brighter Future


Contact: Media Relations

February 13, 2012

Innovating Smarter Lighting Systems and a Brighter Future

Congressman Paul Tonko To Deliver Keynote Address at Smart Lighting Engineering Research Center (ERC) Third Annual “Industry-Academia Days”

U.S. Representative Paul D. Tonko will deliver the keynote address today to help kick off the Smart Lighting Engineering Research Center (ERC) third annual Industry-Academia Days.

The two-day event will highlight the ERC’s leading-edge research efforts toward the creation of a new generation of lighting devices and systems. Following this evening’s lab tours and reception, the conference will take place Tuesday from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the Hilton Garden Inn in Troy, N.Y. Tuesday’s events are free and open to the public. See the full schedule at:

The Smart Lighting ERC is dedicated to developing new lighting systems based on light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and light sensing technologies. Along with being highly energy efficient and producing higher quality light, these smarter, feature-rich systems are poised to enable entirely new applications in areas as diverse as communications, health care, and biohazard sensing. Rensselaer leads the ERC, which launched in 2008 and is funded primarily by the National Science Foundation. Now in its fourth year, the ERC has enlisted more than 20 key industrial partners to help guide the center’s research programs and hasten the transition from product idea to testing and commercialization.

“LEDs and lighting research present a rich opportunity, in terms of energy efficiency and human health, and toward unearthing a host of yet-undiscovered applications,” said Rensselaer President Shirley Ann Jackson. “With innovation, ingenuity, and old-fashioned hard work, the Smart Lighting ERC at Rensselaer is helping to rewrite the rules for making, manipulating, exploiting, and understanding the effects of lighting. And by partnering closely with industry, we are ensuring these new technologies are moving swiftly from the lab to the marketplace.”

“Our region is a model and one that is being duplicated throughout the world on partnerships,” Tonko said. “Within the Smart Lighting Engineering Research Center at Rensselaer, there is collaboration between industry, academia, and the federal government. The federal government is a partner in moving ideas from the prototype phase to full-scale manufacturing and deployment.”

“The Smart Lighting ERC functions as an advanced research and innovation engine for future solid-state lighting systems to bring a wide range of new capabilities to lighting,” said Rensselaer Professor and ERC Director Robert Karlicek. “Our annual Industry-Academia Days allow for industrial partners and other important stakeholders to hear directly from the leaders, faculty, and students who are in the lab every day working to solve technical challenges and invent new approaches for achieving the most efficient, highest quality lighting systems possible.”

As part of the ERC Industry-Academia Days, students affiliated with the ERC will be challenged by an elevator pitch contest. As part of the contest, the students will have to describe in only 90 seconds the importance, technical details, and potential impacts of their research.

“The ERC is focused on educating a new class of electrical engineers and materials scientists who understand both the fundamental physical science and engineering of advanced solid-state lighting systems,” said David Rosowsky, dean of the School of Engineering at Rensselaer. “This is a critical component of our mission to educate the next generation of engineering leaders, who have the multidisciplinary knowledge and experience to innovate local solutions to the grand, global challenges we will face in the coming decades.”

While the promise of LEDs as a long-lived, energy-efficient heir to light bulbs, compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), and fluorescent tubes is undeniable, the true promise of LED and solid-state lighting technology transcends illumination. LEDs offer the potential to control, manipulate, and use light in entirely new ways for a surprisingly diverse range of new applications and capabilities never before possible with ordinary lighting.

To realize the potential of solid-state lighting technology, the ERC team is working to create better LEDs, as well as new sensors and control systems required to effectively monitor and manipulate these LEDs. Additionally, they are developing new manufacturing technology to ensure this smart lighting technology is scalable and cost effective. More than 30 ERC faculty researchers at Rensselaer and partner universities are actively working toward this goal, along with dozens of student researchers, postdoctoral researchers, and visiting industry engineers.

Along with Rensselaer, core ERC university partners are Boston University and the University of New Mexico. ERC educational outreach partners are Howard University in Washington; Morgan State University in Baltimore; and Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Ind.

For additional information on the Smart Lighting ERC, visit:


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About Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Founded in 1824, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is America’s first technological research university. Rensselaer encompasses five schools, over 30 research centers, more than 140 academic programs including 25 new programs, and a dynamic community made up of over 6,800 students and 104,000 living alumni. Rensselaer faculty and alumni include upwards of 155 National Academy members, six members of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, six National Medal of Technology winners, five National Medal of Science winners, and a Nobel Prize winner in Physics. With nearly 200 years of experience advancing scientific and technological knowledge, Rensselaer remains focused on addressing global challenges with a spirit of ingenuity and collaboration. To learn more, please visit