Light-emitting diode (LED) technology is becoming the choice for many lighting applications that require monochromatic light. However, one potential problem with LED-based lighting systems is uneven luminance patterns. Having a uniform luminance distribution is more important in some applications. One example where LEDs are becoming a viable alternative and luminance uniformity is an important criterion is backlighted monochromatic signage. The question is how much uniformity is required for these applications. Presently, there is no accepted metric that quantifies luminance uniformity. A recent publication proposed a method based on digital image analysis to quantify beam quality of reflectorized halogen lamps. To be able to employ such a technique to analyze colored beams generated by LED systems, it is necessary to have contrast sensitivity functions (CSFs) for monochromatic light produced by LEDs. Several factors including the luminance, visual field size, and spectral power distribution of the light affect the CSFs. Although CSFs exist for a variety of light sources at visual fields ranging from 2 degrees to 20 degrees, CSFs do not exist for red, green, and blue light produced by high-brightness LEDs at 2-degree and 10-degree visual fields and at luminances typical for backlighted signage. Therefore, the goal of the study was to develop a family of CSFs for 2-degree and 10-degree visual fields illuminated by narrow-band LEDs at typical luminances seen in backlighted signs. The details of the experiment and the results are presented in this manuscript.
This paper outlines two parts of a study designed to evaluate the use of light-emitting diodes (LEDs) in channel-letter signs. The first part of the study evaluated the system performance of red LED signs and white LED signs against reference neon and cold-cathode signs. The results show a large difference between the actual performance and potential savings from red and white LEDs. Depending on the configuration, a red LED sign could use 20% to 60% less power than a neon sign at the same light output. The light output of the brightest white LED sign tested was 15% lower than the cold-cathode reference, but its power was 53% higher. It appears from this study that the most efficient white LED system is still 40% less efficient than the cold-cathode system tested. One area that offers a great potential for further energy savings is the acrylic diffuser of the signs. The acrylic diffusers measured absorb between 60% and 66% of the light output produced by the sign. Qualitative factors are also known to play an important role in signage systems. One of the largest issues with any new lighting technology is its acceptance by the end user. Consistency of light output and color among LEDs, even from the same manufacturing batch, and over time, are two of the major issues that also could affect the advantages of LEDs for signage applications. To evaluate different signage products and to identify the suitability of LEDs for this application, it is important to establish a criterion for brightness uniformity. Building upon this information, the second part of the study used human factors evaluations to determine a brightness-uniformity criterion for channel-letter signs. The results show that the contrast modulation between bright and dark areas within a sign seems to elicit the strongest effect on how people perceive uniformity. A strong monotonic relationship between modulation and acceptability was found in this evaluation. The effect of contrast seems to be stronger than that of spatial frequency or background luminance, particularly for contrast modulation values of less than 0.20 or greater than 0.60. A sign with luminance variations of less than 20% would be accepted by at least 80% of the population in any given context.