LED lighting system for better health on the job

Press release / 18.8.2016

© BMW AG, Munich (Germany)

Windowless shift work: Workers in the automobile assembly plant.

© Fraunhofer-inHaus-Center

The "ILIGHTS" project team is excited about the research tasks ahead (from left to right): Dr. med. Alfred Wiater, hospital Porz am Rhein, Dr. Nina Kloster, Fraunhofer-inHaus-Center and Rasit Özgüc, Fraunhofer UMSICHT

The joint research project “ILIGHTS” examines the non-visual benefits of a newly developed LED lighting system in shift operation of the Munich factory of the BMW group. The long-term health and well-being is supposed to improve.

The different brightness, light direction and colors of the daylight have always stimulated humans in different ways. Over the course of the evolutionary development, humans adapted to the changing light and rhythm. The “inner clock” is an important control element, which coordinates all of the bodily functions, needs a daily synchronization for a good balance. Low light consumption can lead to fatigue and lethargy, mood swings, or even physical illnesses.

Currently people spend most of the day with artificial lighting within buildings. Whether it’s work, leisure activities or social networks – the computer is the central medium of everyday life. Due to the decoupling of humans and natural sunlight, the positive effect of biological daylight is missing. The consequences can be seen in alternate shift workers. Workers mostly spend eight to ten hours with changing working hours under artificial lighting and without direct sunlight exposure. Frequently this lifestyle is directly linked to sleep disturbances and a decrease in physical well-being.

Partial, dynamic lighting

Within the funding initiative “Intelligent Lighting” of the Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) the project “ILIGHTS” is starting. Next to the Fraunhofer-inHaus-Center and the Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety, and Energy Technology UMSICHT, the hospital Porz am Rhein and the BMW AG Munich are involved in the project. In the project supported by the Federal Ministry for Education and Research the physiological and cognitive effects of dynamic LED lighting on shift workers at the BMW assembly plant are being tested using a modular experimental system.

While lighting systems have mostly been used for a purely visual purpose, research recently has been dealing with the non-visual benefits of light, as light not only enables vision, but also controls many vegetative hormonal processes in the human body, for example the heart rate, the core body temperature and sleeping behavior. Within the project Fraunhofer UMSICHT is developing a LED system which allows for dynamic lighting with precisely adjustable intensity as well as individual wavelength ranges of the full spectrum. To examine the non-visual benefits of the LED technology practically and under real conditions, a production section at BMW in Munich is being equipped with the developed LED system and tested. For a 21-week-study 80 shift workers are provided with mobile sensor technology that monitors their vital parameters and the individual light consumption. Moreover, doctors of the hospital Porz regularly take pupillographic measurements for the determination of alertness and ask the BMW workers about their health status, their emotional well-being as well as efficiency and concentration ability. After  three weeks each, the lighting scenario is adapted based on the collected data.  

Light against sleep disturbances and Seasonal Affective Disorders

The findings of the practice phase is supposed to inform on how and in what form lighting influences the physical and psychological parameters of humans and which lighting parameters can be adjusted for which applications. “The goal of the project is to improve the well-being and health of workers in shift operation in the long-term. This way sleep disturbances can be avoided or reduced”, summarizes Dr. Nina Kloster, director of the Fraunhofer-inHaus-Center in which the preliminary study is about to begin. The obtained knowledge not only expands the current chronobiological level of knowlede, but also the data can be transferred to empirically secured planning and product concepts for building control systems and to recommended actions for guidelines and norms. Additional application areas could be schools, retirement homes or hospitals.

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Contact
Dr. Nina Kloster
Project Coordination

Fraunhofer-inHaus-Center

Forsthausweg 1
47057 Duisburg

E-Mail: nina.kloster@ims.fraunhofer.de