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    Smart lighting and the makeover of LED driver ICs

    By Majeed Ahmad | February 7, 2017

    LED driver ICs such as Fairchild’s FL77944 accommodate higher wattage systems like street lights using parallel connections with LEDs.

    American Airlines Center near the Dallas downtown recently replaced the high-pressure sodium and metal halide light fixtures with LED luminaires in its parking garages. And that has allowed the sports and entertainment arena to reduce an estimated 60 percent energy consumption and $1.26 million in total lifetime savings in parking garage lighting.

    The nearly 100-year-old lighting industry is finally showing signs of change. And at the heart of this transformation in ubiquitous lighting systems is the tiny LED driver chip. There are two notable paths to innovation in the LED driver realm.

    First, LED driver ICs are bridging the gap between legacy analog wall dimmers enabled by phase-cut triac technology and smart LED luminaires facilitated by digital control solutions. Case in point is Dialog’s dual-dim chip that allows dimming from 100 percent to 1 percent without flicker or shimmer.

    Such digital solutions using pulse width modulation (PWM) dimming technology can also wirelessly connect lighting systems via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and ZigBee protocols. And thus facilitate new applications and novel forms of user engagement.

    Second, new SoC solutions are replacing the switch-mode power supply (SMPS) approach to simplify LED lighting designs and reduce bill-of-material (BOM) costs. For instance, the LED Direct AC drive chip from Fairchild, now part of ON Semiconductor, eliminates the need for inductance coils, electrolytic capacitors, and transformers.

    That allows LED hardware to fit into tighter spaces and reduce the points of failures. It’s worth noting that in an SMPS-based LED lighting system, electrolytic capacitors are a common source of failure.

    The makeover of LED driver IC is likely to continue in 2017, and we will keep you posted on what’s next in the evolution of intelligent LED driver solutions for household, commercial and industrial smart lighting systems.