Philips is once again betting heavily on semiconductors. The consumer electronics firm is looking to harness their potential as a source of light.
The producer of one in four of the world’s lights, which sold its semiconductor business in 2006 after being undercut by Asian rivals, has invested more than 4 billion euros ($5.47 billion) to ride the clean-tech wave and defend its position.
The company is betting on a shift in the lighting market, away from light bulbs and towards light-emitting diodes or LEDs — perhaps best known for their use in flashing indicators found on most consumer devices.
“In terms of value around 2015, LED will be bigger than conventional light,” said Philips executive Niels Haverkorn. In the fourth quarter of 2009, LED-based products made up more than 10 per cent of the company’s lighting sales.
Made of diodes, or chips, the first practical LED was a red light developed in 1962. Now the technology has advanced to help them produce light colours across the colour spectrum.
To draw attention to LEDs’ potential to scale up, come down in price and reduce carbon dioxide emissions, Philips converted the famous numerals on the Times Square Ball to LED technology. Other stunts included a display of LED lights at the world heritage-listed windmills in the Netherlands and a solar-powered LED streetlamp at the Copenhagen climate talks.
LEDs’ advantages include long life, energy efficiency and the fact they do not contain mercury.