Through constant research, testing and refining the technology he uses, Jake Dyson’s latest invention – CSYS – invites us to look at LED in its true light
What’s behind your interest in lighting?
I was frustrated that the very high end sector of lighting was dominated by retail companies. Lights were appreciated and existed because they look nice, but no one was really challenging the lighting technology or the quality of light coming out of a product. So I wanted to combine three things: to improve the quality of the light, to provide function with light, and to incorporate it into mechanical sculpture. Then you have a beautiful product which is visually stimulating and also demonstrates how it works.
Your first product – the Motorlight – was a huge success. What opportunities followed?
It was realising that people are excited by the mechanical, sculptural and static elements of the product, but also that they are buying it both for the function and for being able to control and experiment with light. That drove me in continuing to develop new inventions.
Tell us about the concept behind CSYS.
It’s a different light technology that improves on LED technology. It’s also about offering a new mechanism for adjusting the positioning of the light. Desk lights up to now have been in the form of two arms and a pivot or spring, and a lot of them don’t hold their position – they sag and are very bulky. We spent two years refining the thermal system to cool the LEDs. We worked very closely with engineers, scientists and a company in China called CCI who makes all this micro-processor cooling system for computer brands.
Why was there a need to refine the thermal system?
We recognised very early on that LEDs lose their life, change colour and degrade if they are running too hot. A lot of lighting designers are not addressing this issue when designing LED lights.
Not even designers who understand this issue concerning LEDs?
It’s because people who design light fittings are not always engineers. They just take a LED and put it into something and sell it as a beautiful product. It really upsets me because initially it gives LED a bad name. People package them wrongly into products and the LED degrades, and people lose trust in it.
This is particularly so in the past two years as there has been a huge race on, with many manufacturers producing LED fittings very fast without doing research and development. LED was developed in the first place because it was supposed to be sustainable and a lifelong product. That’s why we’ve made them to last for life.
On the other hands, public response upsets me too. They are fed information that compact fluorescent light bulbs are extremely energy-efficient, that they are life-long and very green. They are in fact not life-long – they only last 1,000 or 2,000, hours even though manufacturers state that they last 5,000 or 10,000 hours. They also have harmful substances inside like mercury, so disposing of them is a serious issue.
This is worrying…
I am actually part of a campaign to educate people about problems of compact fluorescent technology. They have to be replaced as they are a detriment to the environment. The difference between a good LED product and a bad LED product is one that lasts for many years and one that doesn’t last for many years. But, unfortunately, too many of them don’t last because people are not paying enough attention when designing lights with them.
What other technologies have you explored?
I very quickly realised that an LED is a semi-conductor; it is used in laptop computers and televisions. The way that they are cooled and to make them reliable is to use heat pipe technology. I have developed my heat pipe and assemble it with the best company in the world.
Another aspect we have spent time exploring is the colour of the light. What puts people off LED is the colour of the light is always white or blue. We have been concentrating in developing warm colours so that we have warm white LED.
One clever invention is the touch-sensor dimming function, so wherever I let go, the light level remains, and I can also turn it on, off and make it bright… So if you just hold your finger on the sensor, the light will then go up and down – it has a memory.
The lamp seems to have many different components. Are these functional or decorative?
Another clever element of the design is that every single component does something. Part of it is a power cabin powering the light, which is also part of the cooling system. We are removing heat from the LED very efficiently. The cooler the LED runs, the longer its life. The standard LED products work between 90 to 120 degrees. If you run a product on 120 degrees, you will have 60,000 hours of life; but if it’s on 90 degrees, you will have about 100,000 hours of life. And if you run it on 60 decrees, you will have 160,000 hours of life, which is 37 years – that’s what we have achieved in this product.
How does it work?
The way we are achieving it is to do with the heat pipe. The LEDs are mounted on a copper base, so the heat is extracted very fast down the heat pipe and then released into the air.
Do you still enjoy making prototypes?
Yes, I love it. It’s my favourite part of the process, to make something that you’ve designed. It’s important for accuracy and reliability. It’s more than just designing on a computer and having the parts made – it never goes together perfectly.