Discovering new possibilities with lighting technology

Dr. Mark Ng - School of Engineering
Professor Jussi Parkkinen - School of Information Technology

As science expands and technology advances, more and more inroads have been made in recent years to develop more energy-efficient lighting platforms. Currently, lighting makes up 20% of the world’s electric consumption. By controlling the usage of lighting more intelligently, researchers believe that an additional 30% of energy stands to be saved, said Professor Jussi Parkkinen, Deputy Head of the School of Information Technology at Monash University Malaysia.

There are two main ways we can save lighting energy, and one of it is to change from old lighting systems to more energy efficient energy systems such as using LEDs.

The other way is to control lighting more intelligently, so we know all the time what kind of lights are needed and used. This is called intelligent lighting, which is what we are studying now, said Prof Parkkinen, who is also the head of discipline of electrical and computer systems engineering at the School of Engineering.

His work with intelligent lighting began about 2 years ago, when the Malaysian government rolled out a national plan identifying key industries and areas that were to be developed, and solid state lighting was one of them.

Prof Parkkinen’s research approaches light based on its spectrum and centres around the possibility of creating a means to control light by the intensity of each individual colour in the entire lighting spectrum. Lights can be controlled, based on the knowledge of how light fits into human needs, emotions and activities.

Through LED technology, we are able to control the colour of the light for each light source, which is measured through the wave length spectrum. This means we can adjust the intensity of each component to get the optimum colour for each different need, he said.

There is more and more understanding on the effect of light on humans, and this is partly based on the understanding of the human eye. How does the eye react differently to different colours? Certain light components give certain effects to the human body so by controlling the different light components; we can set lighting so that it feels the most comfortable for us at different situations, subsequently improving our well-being. The challenge will be to know what kind of light is optimum, he explained.

An example of intelligent lighting would be when Person A is working on one side of the room, and Person B is relaxing on the other, the light in the room can be adjusted according to intensity and colour with the help of the new human activity monitoring including a camera.

Prof Parkkinen said his team has been collaborating with industry players, both locals and multinationals, such as ItraMAS and Osram.

We are looking for something that is relevant to the local industry, that’s why we chose this field of research, he said.

The opportunity for cross-disciplinary study is also vast, with students in the School of IT embarking on a research into the use of intelligent lighting in the health industry.

Lighting is seen more and more as playing a major part in humans’ well-being and environment. We are developing this intelligent health science by incorporating some components of this intelligent light research, he said.

As a result of this cutting-edge research, several new courses have been added to the engineering programme, such as Solid State Lighting, and Organic Electronics and Microdevices at undergraduate level and intelligent lighting at postgraduate level.

These are two new subjects which have come out as a result of the research. So we believe in developing research and education together, said Prof Parkkinen. That is the essence of a true university, that you are both a researcher and you are teaching what you are researching. That is a unique feature to a university. Through industrial collaboration, topics above are relevant and will be utilised practically in the future.

The students here get fresh knowledge, and new discoveries get imparted immediately to the classroom, he said.

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