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A universal, easy-to-apply light-quality index based on natural light spectrum

Jwo-Huei Jou, Kun-Yi Chou, Fu-Chin Yang, Abhishek Agrawal, Sun-Zen Chen, Jing-Ru Tseng, Ching-Chiao Lin,
Po-Wei Chen, Ken-Tsung Wong, and Yun Chi

Citation: Applied Physics Letters 104, 203304 (2014); doi: 10.1063/1.4879635

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APPLIED PHYSICS LETTERS 104, 203304 (2014)

A universal, easy-to-apply light-quality index based on natural light spectrum

Jwo-Huei Jou,1,a) Kun-Yi Chou,1 Fu-Chin Yang,1 Abhishek Agrawal,1,2 Sun-Zen Chen,3
Jing-Ru Tseng,1 Ching-Chiao Lin,1 Po-Wei Chen,1 Ken-Tsung Wong,4,5 and Yun Chi6
Department of Materials Science and Engineering, National Tsing Hua University, Hsin-Chu 300, Taiwan
Amity Institute of Nanotechnology, Amity University, Noida, Uttar Pradesh, India
Center For Nanotechnology, Materials Science, and Microsystems, National Tsing Hua University, Hsin-Chu
300, Taiwan
Department of Chemistry, National Taiwan University, Taipei 106, Taiwan
Institute of Atomic and Molecular Sciences, Academia Sinica, Taipei 10617, Taiwan
Department of Chemistry, National Tsing Hua University, Hsin-Chu 300, Taiwan
(Received 1 March 2014; accepted 12 May 2014; published online 23 May 2014)
Light-quality is extremely crucial for any light source to be used for illumination. However, a
proper light-quality index is still missing although numerous electricity-driven lighting measures
have been introduced since past 150 yr. We present in this communication a universal and easy-
to-apply index for quantifying the quality of any given lighting source, which is based on direct
comparison of its lumen spectrum with the natural light counterpart having the same color
temperature. A general principle for creating high quality pseudo-natural light is accordingly
derived. By using organic light-emitting diode technology, for example, daylight-style emission
with a 96% natural light resemblance is obtained as a high number of organic emitters with
diffused colors spanning throughout the entire visible range are employed. The same principle can
be extended to other lighting technology such as light-emitting diode to generate natural light-style
C 2014 AIP Publishing LLC. []
emission. V

Natural light such as the color-varying daylight from the all the troubles encountered in the calculation of color render-
sun is most adorable, but can never be kept for illumination. ing index, for example, as one needs to find over a wide range
Many electricity-driven lighting measures, including mercury of color temperatures a series of representative sunlight spec-
lamp, cold-white fluorescent tube, warm-white fluorescent tra as the reference lights, which actually do not exist realisti-
tube, and light-emitting diode, have instead been invented cally or would vary significantly with different time, weather,
since the invention of incandescent bulbs.1 Although these ar- latitude, or even air quality. Additionally, the new light-
tificial light sources, except incandescent bulbs, are energy- quality index, namely, spectrum resemblance index, SRI, pre-
efficient as compared to the hydrocarbon-burning lighting sented herein defines the light quality over 0 to 100 scale
devices, but are often not satisfactory because their emissive where zero represents a poorest light-quality while 100 rates
spectra are quite different from those of the diffused and soft for highest light-quality. As to the exemplified color rendering
natural lights, or, in short, their light quality is low or in index, a negative value would be obtained for some lighting
question. sources, e.g., 12 is assigned for the commonly adopted
Furthermore, although there have been extensive efforts low pressure sodium street lamp.9 Moreover, also unlike the
in the development of more proper light quality metrics,27 prior reported light-quality index, sunlight spectrum resem-
color rendering index (CRI) along with other current metrics, blance (SSR),10 which did not distinguish the very different
like correlated color temperature, color quality scale, and luminous contributions made by different colors, this index
color modification factor, are still found to be inadequate for weights the contributions of the different colors according to
describing the color of light. There, therefore, arises a call the photopic function, which quantitatively depicts different
from the Department of Energy in 2013 that, for example, an lumens that different lights can contribute from the perspec-
appropriate light-quality index be developed before 2020 to tive of human eyes in well-lit conditions. Since lesser weight
accurately describe the color of light.8 is assigned to lights that are less sensitive to human eyes, a
To resolve, we present, in this Letter, a universal and resulting higher index of this implies a higher luminous effi-
easy-to-apply index to quantify the light-quality of any given cacy, besides more like a natural light, especially as compar-
lighting source. It is based on a direct comparison of the ing with the sunlight spectrum resemblance counterpart. This
lumen rather than power spectrum determined for the sample is because to obtain a high index of sunlight spectrum resem-
light with that of the easy-to-access blackbody radiation, an blance, a tremendously high amount of photo energy is
ideal natural light, at the same color temperature. Since the required and consequently wasted in generating imperceptible
blackbody radiation, taken as a reference light for the determi- human-eye regions, i.e., deep-blue and/or deep red-lights.
nation of the new light-quality index, is readily obtainable Figure 1 depicts the extents of resemblance of the current
from calculation for any desirable color temperature, it waives lighting sources with their corresponding natural light. Taking
the 100 CRI incandescent bulb at 2300 K, for example, it
E-mail: Tel.: 886-3-5742617. shows from the perspective of machine detected power

0003-6951/2014/104(20)/203304/5/$30.00 104, 203304-1 C 2014 AIP Publishing LLC


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203304-2 Jou et al. Appl. Phys. Lett. 104, 203304 (2014)

spectrum a 96% resemblance with the natural light, i.e., the explains why the SR remains only 78 for the fluorescent tube
blackbody-radiation at the same 2300 K. Its similarity percent- that possess CRI as high as 98 (Figure 1) explicating why
age with natural light is 97 in terms of lumen spectrum resem- CRI is not an appropriate light-quality index.
blance. This ultra-high natural light similarity, coupling with In contrary, the popular street-light, high pressure so-
the intrinsically warm-sensation giving chromaticity, may dium lamp,11,23 shows a high natural light similarity, which is
explain why incandescent bulbs are most widely adopted in 61 in SR, but drops down to only 22 if quantified in terms of
residential illumination.1114 However, they are less frequently CRI. Again, while light sources with a high CRI do not war-
used for work, especially during the daytime, because their rant any high natural light resemblance, the typically claimed
orange-yellow dominant color is drastically different from the low-CRI counterparts do not truly mean poor in light-quality.
outdoor pure-white daylight, making people hard to adjust Amongst, the incandescent bulb is so far the only
psychologically,1519 or causing depression or lethargy.20 electricity-driven lighting source showing very high similarity
As to fluorescent tubes, they can easily show high or with the natural light either from machine or human eyes per-
even very-high CRI and have a large market share, in gen- spective. It is because of its smooth and continuous emissive
eral, lighting.21,22 Unfortunately, their discontinuous and nature which falls close to blackbody-radiation. However, the
spiking emission nature depreciate them from the natural near complete power-spectrum match with natural light can-
lights, which in turn lead to a comparatively low SR. This not prevent incandescent bulbs from being phased out due to
very low luminous efficiency, i.e., between 1.9% and 2.6%.24
The poor luminous performance of incandescent bulbs arises
mainly from the excessive emission of invisible infrared and
least-visible deep-red lights. In order to develop a quality
pseudo-natural light with energy-saving character, one needs
to maximize the spectral similarity at wavelengths which are
more sensitive to human eyes, and meanwhile minimizing
those in or beyond the deep-red and/or deep-blue regions.
This explains why fluorescent tubes and high pressure sodium
lamps are comparatively energy-saving.25,26
As to the state-of-art solid state lighting technology,
light emitting diode (LED) is capable of reaching very high
spectral similarity with natural light. Taking the 97 CRI,
white LED studied, for example, exhibits a 94 SR (Figure 1).
Although the emission of typical LED lamps is very sharp in
the blue light region, the employment of one or two rela-
tively broad and diffused emission giving phosphor(s)2729
that with emission peaking at around the highest photopic
plateau has markedly enhanced its natural light similarity.
Taking another 94 CRI, warm-white LED, for example, the
SR is further increased to 96 as the narrow-band red LED is
replaced by a broad-band red phosphor.
As to another solid state lighting technology, organic
light emitting diode (OLED) can closely mimic almost any
natural light with any desirable color. It is because organic
electro-luminescent materials can emit any color throughout
the entire visible region, and their spectra are broad and dif-
fused. As a result, full-spectrum pseudo-natural lights with
different daylight colors can be synthesized with the
employment of a high number of OLED emitters. By using
FIG. 1. Natural light resemblance comparison of current lighting sources
from the perspectives of machine-detected power spectrum and human-eyes
six organic emitters with colors varying from deep-red to
sensible lumen spectrum. To reflect the light-quality for lighting, the spec- deep-blue, for example, we can generate dawn-style, sunny-
trum of the lighting source is suggested to compare directly with the natural day-style, and dusk-hue-style emissions with a very high
light from the perspective of human eyes sensitivity to light. Amongst, the spectrum resemblance of 96, 96, and 92, respectively.
incandescent bulb is the only electricity-driven lighting source showing very
high similarity with natural light either from machine or human eyes per- The above lumen based SR, or SRI, is defined as
spective. The extremely high natural light resemblance however cannot pre- following:
vent incandescent bulbs from being phased out due to its energy-wasting
nature arising from excessive emission in the deep-red or even infrared

region. Hence, the key to developing a quality pseudo-natural light with Lk; Tdk
energy-saving character is to maximize the spectral similarity at wave- SRI  100%; (1)
lengths with high human eyes sensitivity, and meanwhile minimize the
emissions in the deep-red and deep-blue regions. These explain why some LBR k; Tdk
lighting sources show poor match with natural light from power spectrum
perspective, but good match from lumen spectrum perspective and are com-
paratively energy-saving, for wasting little or no energy in generating emis- where L is the luminance of the studied light source overlap-
sion in the invisible or visible-less parts. ping with that of its corresponding blackbody-radiation, LBR,
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203304-3 Jou et al. Appl. Phys. Lett. 104, 203304 (2014)

FIG. 2. Exemplifications of the spectra

of three natural lights, i.e., sunlight at
dawn, noon, and dusk, from machine
and human eyes perspectives; where
the luminance or lumen spectra (c) are
obtained by weighting the machine-
detected power spectra (a) with the lu-
minosity or photopic function3032 (b).

at a given wavelength, k, at the same color temperature, T. Figure 3 demonstrates the effects of band-numbers on
As shown in Figure 2, the luminance spectrum, L(k,T), can natural light similarity, SR, for the lighting sources based
be obtained by convoluting the power spectrum, I(k,T), with on narrow-band LEDs and broad-band OLEDs. As seen, the
the luminosity function, or photopic function if under well- increase of the applied band-numbers may help improve the
lit condition, V(k).3032 Details regarding the calculation can similarity, but only to a very limited degree, if LEDs with
be referred in Ref. 33. mono-disperse emission are employed. Specifically, the

FIG. 3. Effects of band-number on nat-

ural light similarity for the lighting
sources based on narrow-band LEDs
and broad-band OLEDs. Taking a
white natural light with a color temper-
ature of 5800 K, for example, it takes
OLED only 4 bands to generate a
pseudo-natural white light with a
greater than 95% natural light similar-
ity. In contrary, using 6 narrow-band
LEDs can only obtain an 83% similar-
ity, explaining why broad-band phos-
phors are inevitably adopted in LEDs
for lighting purpose.

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203304-4 Jou et al. Appl. Phys. Lett. 104, 203304 (2014)

the light quality and efficacy. Nevertheless, decent device ef-

ficiency can still be obtained for OLED with a nearly perfect
nature light-style emission.
To conclude, a universal and easy-to-apply index are
developed for quantifying the light-quality of any given light
source to be used for lighting purpose. The reason why the
light-quality index is easy to apply is because it is based on a
straightforward, direct comparison of the resulting lumen
spectrum with the natural light counterpart having the same
color temperature. The reason why it is universal is
because it takes the theoretically computable blackbody radi-
ation as the reference light with no color temperature limit,
while in CRI, for example, no standard sunlight spectra can
be obtained as reference over a wide range of color tempera-
FIG. 4. Effects of the band-number of composing emitters on the light-
quality, in terms of natural light SRI, and the corresponding efficacy-limit ture since sunlight spectrum varies with time, weather, lati-
for the white light at 5800 K composing of broad-band OLEDs (in red circle) tude, and/or air quality. A general principle for creating high
and narrow-band LEDs (in blue square). Although there is a trade-off quality pseudo-natural light with energy-saving character is
between the light quality and efficacy, relatively high device efficiency is
still achievable for OLED with a nearly perfect natural light-style emission.
accordingly derived. As demonstrated, the principle can be
applied to at least LED and OLED lighting technologies to
fabricate natural light-style light sources with high light-
similarity is increased from 58 to 83 as the band-numbers quality.
applied are increased from 2 to 6. This explains why phos-
phors must be incorporated in LED lamps to improve their This work was financially supported by Taiwan
light quality or to generate emission like that of natural National Science Council and Ministry of Economic Affairs
light. Taking the latest full-spectrum white LEDs, through Grant Nos. MEA 101-EC-17-A-07-S1-181, NSC
that based on some customized phosphor blends,34 for 101-3113-E-007-001, and NSC 100-2119-M-007-011-MY3.
example, only three broad-and-diffused emissive bands are
required to mimic natural light character with an SR as high
as 89. 1
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203304-5 Jou et al. Appl. Phys. Lett. 104, 203304 (2014)

I. Lewin and L. Fies, developed from a Paper Delivered to the 1999 (k, T) is the luminance spectrum of the blackbody-radiation, and L (k, T) is
Conference of the Institution of Lighting Engineers, Portsmouth, England, the overlapping area between the luminous spectrum of the studied light
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ekkT 1
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The SR of a given light source is calculated wavelength of the electromagnetic radiation, k is the Boltzmann constant,
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Lk; Tdk
and it is defined as following: SR  100% where LBR 34
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LBR k; Tdk

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