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LED lighting

LED mood lighting is now being promoted as a way of combating jet lag but, as Mario Pierobon found out, there are differing views on its effectiveness


Especially when crossing multiple time sectors, the adjustment of the biological clock to the destination’s time zone is very important. Improved lighting conditions in aircraft cabins by means of LED systems are helping prime passengers’ bio clocks to adapt to the destination’s time zone, as well as improving wellbeing in flight. While LED solutions come by default in newer aircraft they are also available for retrofitting and, attracted by the promise of reduced energy consumption, airlines are increasingly upgrading their cabins to LED systems.

Dr Achim Leder, Co-Founder of jetlite, a provider of an algorithm-based solution to reduce jetlag on long-distance flights, says: “LED-technology is available nowadays in nearly all state of the art aircraft that are being delivered, so the airlines do not really have to decide whether to upgrade newly ordered aircraft. But for retrofitting the decision has to be made.

As LED-technology not only offers the chance to use different lighting scenes but in the long run also decreases costs – because it requires easier maintenance and less energy – it is an economic decision. Premium airlines especially are upgrading their aircraft within retrofitting solutions to bring the cabins of older aircraft to state of the art conditions, and to look like newer aircraft.”

“The transition from fluorescent to LED in the aftermarket is underway and we are playing our part in driving that transition,” says Dr Lauren Fleming, Senior Research and Development Scientist at STG Aerospace. “Designed as an aftermarket solution, the STG Aerospace liTeMood LED lighting systems are not only designed to give passengers a more modern cabin experience – they also offer the airlines significant savings in ongoing maintenance, power and weight compared with dated fluorescent systems.”

A recent study at Delft University of Technology gauged passenger perception of an aircraft cabin illuminated with fluorescent lighting, contrasted with their perception of the same cabin retrofitted with LED lighting. The results showed the latter produced a significant increase in the positive perception of the cabin from seat comfort to cabin cleanliness, Fleming says. In STG Aerospace’s experience, airlines are keen to upgrade, but disinterested in complexity. “They do not want to provide disco lighting with millions of different colours that the cabin crew can play with. They want a simple to install, simple to operate, high-quality solution that can effectively change the mood on board using existing controls. To do this, we considered all aspects of lighting, such as saturation levels, colour temperature, the depth of hue,” she says. “Focusing on how the light reflects on other surfaces in the interior of the cabin, including the wall panels, seats, carpets and resultant passenger perception. Offering all of this, in a simple, high quality system with limited complexity, seems to be what customers want at the moment.”

Typically, an airline will choose four light settings – three of which are a ‘white’ light with the fourth typically being a shade of blue. Blue light is found to be relaxing and refreshing, helping passengers feel energised when they arrive at their destination. For these reasons, the STG Aerospace cabin lighting system liTeMood comes with a specially designed blue setting, enhancing the passenger experience with simple, high-quality lighting.

Indeed, airlines are keen to upgrade aircraft lighting systems to LED, as Leder notes: “Several airlines are currently using LED technology on board their aircraft and the experiences are predominantly positive due to lower costs and more satisfied passengers experiencing higher wellbeing, less stress, better sleep during the flight and higher activation after the flight.”

The liTeMood LED lighting systems was introduced to the marketplace in 2011, and since then STG Aerospace has seen major demand for its products. It now has a customer portfolio spanning multiple airlines across Europe, USA and Latin America, ranging from premier carriers to some of the world’s largest leisure airlines. “Many of the airlines now flying with liTeMood understand the need for a homogenous, controllable and uniformity of lighting throughout the cabin, and have therefore installed the ancillary range of lighting products from liTeMood – providing higher consistency of light throughout the cabin while enhancing the passenger experience during the boarding, inflight and disembarking process. It also provides for an enhanced working environment in the galleys and aisles for the flight crew,” says Fleming.

It should be pointed out that using LED lighting on board does not, per se, meet the aim of reducing jet lag. “At present LED technology is almost exclusively used as mood lighting. This means it is used to create a nice atmosphere and let people feel good on board," Leder explains. “Our jetlite solution is now scientifically proven for using LED technology to reduce jet lag by means of an algorithm which arranges the lighting scenarios regarding chronobiologic (inner clock) knowledge. By adapting the intensity and spectrum of lights based on flight times, direction of travel and the overflown time zones the passengers are supported by arriving more relaxed and activated at the destination.”

LED lighting can only ameliorate the effects of jet lag if lighting conditions are progressively adjusted to adapt the internal sleep cycle. “Our eyes receive information from light which help our brain to determine what time of day it is. The combination of spectral output (colour) and intensity (brightness) indicates the time of day and our brains then use this information to release certain hormones and chemicals,” explains Fleming. “For example, in the evening when light is much less intense and higher in red content, our brain releases melatonin which is the precursor to sleep and helps our bodies to wind down before heading to bed. When traveling to different time zones our sleep cycles get unsynchronised with the time of day but after a few days of light exposure we will begin feeling back to normal. We can cheat our bodies into achieving this quicker by exposing ourselves to more light in the morning if traveling to the east to mimic their time zone or when travelling west using more light in the evening. >>

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