The L Prize is an exciting new electronics competition sponsored by the DOE

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is not a fan of the old-fashioned light bulb which has changed little over the last few decades -- in fact it wants to replace it.  It wants scientists to develop more efficient, high-quality affordable solid-state lighting and it has launched a new prize program titled Bright Tomorrow Lighting Prize.  The department states, "The L Prize will continue DOE’s lighting research and development efforts by aiming to radically accelerate America’s shift from inefficient, dated lighting products to innovative, high-performance products."

The new program will offer cash prizes and according to the DoE,
"may also lead to opportunities for federal purchasing agreements, utility programs, and other incentives for winning products."

The new program is part of the provisions of the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007, a wide reaching bill seeking to help reduce America's dependence on foreign energy sources by promoting greater energy efficiency.  Among its chief targets is the replacement of most inefficient current forms of lighting --
60W incandescent lamps and PAR 38 halogen lamps.  There are prizes for designing a light bulb in either class which meets the requirements defined by the Department of Energy.

The EISA legislation authorizes up to $20M USD in cash prizes.  The money will come from the DOE Congressional appropriations, charitable foundations, and power utilities.  Of the cash prize purse, the DOE is contributing $1M USD, contingent upon the promised 2009 appropriation.  It tells competitors that the real figure will be substantially larger.

It states, "In addition, potential opportunities for future federal purchasing agreements, utility programs, and other incentives for winning products may far exceed the value of the cash prize."

The specifications for the competition on a most basic level state that for a design to be eligible to claim the prize it must consumer just 17 percent of the energy used in current incandescent designs.  Designs will be rigorously tested to confirm their fitness and durability.  Utility partners will help stress the bulbs under real world conditions.

Four major utilities -- Pacific Gas & Electric, Sacramento Municipal Utility District, San Diego Gas & Electric, and Southern California Edison -- have all signed aboard the project.  They pledge to help contribute to the testing, and help reward prize winners.

More details on prize specifics and solid-state lighting can be viewed here.

The DOE is going to offer a new certification "DOE Energy Star" to exemplary designs.  It expects these designs to start appearing on the market by late this year.

The "L Prize" follows closely in the footsteps of the well publicized "X Prize" competitions, which started out as a prize for the first private suborbital space flight, and since have expanded to include goals such as a new lunar lander and better gas mileage.  DailyTech has looked in depth at the promising future of LED lighting in an article which can be viewed here.

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