One of the more popular clean tech articles last week was Martin Lamonica’s CNET post from May 7, “Can green tech operate under Moore’s Law?” The catalyst for the article was a comment at the Ceres 2010: Roadmap for a Sustainable Future conference, held here in Boston, that the scale and speed of green innovation need to accelerate. Lamonica then dove into an exploration of whether Moore’s Law applies to the vibrant clean-/green-tech innovation sector. While the article didn’t reach any definitive conclusion, it was a good exploration of the topic.
As CTO of a clean tech lighting company that integrates computing and LEDs, I pay close attention to Moore’s Law, which states that the number of transistors that can be placed inexpensively on an integrated circuit has doubled approximately every two years (source: Wikipedia). We’ve all benefitted over the years from the increased computing power at decreasing price points – the improving performance and decreasing costs of computers, for example.
I also pay close attention to Haitz’s Law, which correlates to Moore’s Law, but is focused on LEDs and the advances in lumen output. Haitz’s Law, named after Dr. Roland Haitz, says that “every decade, the cost per lumen (unit of useful light emitted) falls by a factor of 10, the amount of light generated per LED package increases by a factor of 20, for a given wavelength (color) of light.” (source: Wikipedia)
Both Moore and Haitz address performance improvements and price decreases with an eye toward that pivotal point when increasing performance intersects with decreasing price. That magical point is what makes widespread adoption feasible.
Where it gets interesting is the convergence of these laws and the new products that they enable. Perhaps unintentionally, the convergence of these laws has ushered in the era of intelligent lighting systems that combine LEDs, computing and networking into a single, integrated system. Straddling the worlds of LEDs and semiconductors, this new category of product wouldn’t be possible without the rapid advances in LEDs combined with the affordability of semiconductor technology. (Note: see earlier blog on costs of intelligent lighting systems.)
Outside of academic circles, what do Haitz’s Law and Moore’s Law mean? From the customer perspective, these abstract academic concepts deliver tangible benefits – for industrial lighting users, they deliver massive energy efficiencies and new levels of operational control and intelligence. Were these the goals of the laws? Probably not, but the application of these theories to the very real challenge of energy efficiency pays dividends that end customers can take to the bank.