By TOBY STERLING
AMSTERDAM (AP) â¿¿ Almost anybody who works in an office has grown accustomed to the glow of fluorescent tubes providing light from overhead. Now Royal Philips NV says it has developed a working prototype of a lamp it says will confine the fluorescent bulb to the recycling bin of history.
The Dutch company said Thursday it has developed an LED light that will be interchangeable with the best fluorescents currently on the market. Its claim that the new light will save energy and money and cut pollution commands attention as Philips is the world's largest maker of lights by sales globally. Philips lighting sales in 2012 amounted to 8.4 billion euros ($11 billion) in a total global market that consulting firm McKinsey puts at 70 billion euros.
In an interview with the Associated Press ahead of the unveiling of the new light, a top executive said the prototype is headed to mass production and will hit the market in 2015. He said that in 10 years, LEDs will replace at least half of fluorescent bulbs, which have dominated workplace lighting since shortly after World War II.
"This is a major step forward for the lighting world," said Rene Van Schooten, CEO of Philips' light sources division. "It will bring an enormous savings in energy."
Experts outside the Dutch company have long expected LEDs to eclipse fluorescents. However, if Philips' bulbs make it to market as advertised, that would be somewhat ahead of expectations.
In recent years, energy-efficient lights made by Philips, Siemens AG, General Electric Co, Cree Inc. and others using LEDs, or light-emitting diodes, have made significant inroads in the home market, replacing many incandescent and halogen bulbs.
But because fluorescent bulbs are highly efficient, LED lights have so far achieved only a small foothold in business and industry. LEDs are competitive in heavy use settings where their longer lifespans and a minor energy edge pay off.