January 1, 2012
Cool New Lamp
Jake Dyson’s precisely engineered task light uses thermal management to make LEDs last longer.
“LEDs were supposed to be the future of lighting,” according to the London-based designer Jake Dyson. But, he says, they have been misrepresented in products and thus given a reputation for being unreliable: “A lot of technology is being applied to the optics and electronic drivers for LEDs, but the same impetus isn’t going into protecting their life.” Dyson’s new CSYS task lamp, arguably the first light to use LED technology properly, hopes to change all that.
“The lifespan of LEDs depends on the temperature they’re run at,” he explains, “and cooling them increases their life.” The CSYS lamp uses the same heat-pipe technology that was originally used in satellites and is now used to cool electronic components in computers. Dyson conducted tests in a special climate chamber in his studio and realized that, given the manufacturer’s data for the life expectancy of an LED chip at a maximum temperature of 140 degrees Fahrenheit, he could claim that his dimmable CSYS lamp will last at least 160,000 hours at full brightness (or a mind-boggling 37 years if used 12 hours a day) before the chip begins to degrade.
Another upside of temperature control is the quality of the light. LEDs are covered with phosphor to whiten their naturally bluish light. “When the LEDs are too hot the phosphor cracks up,” Dyson says. “Eventually, the chip will reduce its light level and burn out.” So why isn’t thermal management of greater interest to lighting designers? “Often, a designer is a stylist who makes beautiful objects and doesn’t have the interest in engineering to improve a technology,” Dyson replies.
Dyson, who studied industrial design at Central Saint Martins in the mid-1990s (a program he says was disappointingly style-based, at the time), has probably inherited a preoccupation with engineering from his father, James Dyson, of vacuum-cleaner fame. The CSYS lamp ensures even light distribution, with no hot spots or glare, thanks to each LED having an individual, coneshaped reflector inside the lamp head. “Even when you’re looking at the light you can’t see the LEDs,” he says.
With impressive precision, the CSYS lamp also holds the position that you move or rotate it into, taking its inspiration variously from the mechanics of a drawing board, the pulley system and counterweights of an elevator, and the movement of the arm of a crane. “In every product I’ve done, the function of the product has been part of its aesthetic, so it’s rather like a moving sculpture,” Dyson says. “I don’t want to hide the beauty of how something works—it’s fascinating.”