Spectroscopy, Lighting, and Health: The Role of Spectral Data

How Spectral Data Can Help Mitigate Negative Effects of Lighting

The rise of energy-efficient LEDs has raised the question of connections between lighting and health effects. Preliminary research indicates that effects like flicker and high blue light content may impact focus, sleep, and general health. Theories suggest that spectrally-tuned light sources could be used to enhance environments for specific uses to combat these negative effects. At Wave Illumination, our mission is to enable this revolution of the lit environment through the collection of robust spectral lighting data.

There is much to be learned about how lighting intensity, consistency, and color balance affect the human body and mind. Research in this area will continue to depend on carefully designed experiments to quantify physiological responses and impact. Accurate measurements of spectral output and intensity of the light sources under test will play a large role in these studies. Designed for quick and easy characterization of light sources, the WaveGo is already helping to facilitate this cutting edge research.

Negative Health Effects of Flicker

Lighting run on 100 or 120 Hz AC power often shows fluctuations in intensity. Fluorescent lighting is particularly prone to these fluctuations, with intensity variations of up to 20%. Lighting at frequencies of up to 200 Hz can lead to eye strain, headaches, and poorer performance on visual tasks. Unfortunately, many schools and office environments that demand a high level of focus and productivity use lights prone to flicker. As a result, this is an issue of general concern.

One challenge in studying the physiological impact of flicker has been the lack of instrumentation capable of characterizing light sources on the appropriate time scale. With a spectrometer like the WaveGo, you can collect full spectral scans of wavelength ranges up to 300-800 nm, enabling investigation of characteristics such as frequency, amplitude, and chromatic variation and their relation to physiological response.

While guidelines to limit flicker in LED-based products are not yet established, accurate measurement systems like the WaveGo are sure to assist with both research into the effects of flicker and the enforcement of guidelines that may be established as a result, all while being user-friendly and portable.

Lighting to Improve Well-being

One interesting idea to develop from the proliferation of LED lighting is the potential for human-centric lighting (HCL). This involves optimizing the color temperature or color balance of the light source based on the environment or application.. With tunable solid state lighting, users can adjust the color temperatures of white light from as little as 1650 K to as high as 8000 K. Tunable sources are now available from a variety of LED vendors, who mix and match up to five LEDs to produce the full range of color temperatures.

Early research of tunable lighting claims HCL benefits include increases in productivity, accelerated healing, and elimination of jet lag. Intuitively, the potential for light to affect mood, focus, and general health is great. However, experiments in this area can be difficult to perform accurately. Research is just beginning to scratch the surface of this fascinating but challenging field; it will require accurate color temperature, irradiance, and spectral measurements of the light source intensity to do so. With the WaveGo, researchers can collect each of these measurements in a single click. With the WaveCloud, users can store each measurement easily for later retrieval and analysis.

Conclusion

Accurate spectral, correlated color temperature, and irradiance measurements from WaveGo benefit researchers undertaking studies exploring the health impact of lighting. Its portability and ease of use give manufacturers the ability to uphold present and future standards and guidelines. As the LED light source market continues to grow and develop products for specific lighting applications, the WaveGo will be there to both help set standards and determine compliance. Contact us today to discuss your application.

In Conjunction with Ocean Optics, Inc.

Originally published May 24, 2017.