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Aviat Space Environ Med. 2007 Sep;78(9):893-900.

Perceived brightness of incandescent and LED aviation signal lights.

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  • 1Lighting Research Center, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, 21 Union Street, Troy, NY 12180, USA. bulloj@rpi.epu



Aviation signal lights using light emitting diodes (LEDs) are commonly perceived as brighter than those using incandescent sources, even at the same measured intensity. In general, saturated colors, like those produced by LEDs, appear brighter than less saturated lights, like those produced by incandescent sources.


We describe a series of experiments quantifying the brightness of simulated blue, white, and green LED signal lights relative to incandescent signal lights of the same hue. Simulated signal lights and arrays were compared against dark and against dimly lighted backgrounds, and through simulated fog.


The results confirm that LED signal lights are brighter than incandescent signals at matched luminous intensities. Brightness relationships were unaffected by background light level, and by the number of signals viewed, but the simulated fog reduced the brightness difference between the incandescent and LED signal lights.


The present results could not be accurately predicted by several previously published models of brightness appearance, probably because of differences in experimental conditions. We present a new model that can be used to predict signal light brightness for blue, white, and green signal colors. Except for very short-wavelength blue signal lights, the model was able to accurately predict the present brightness data as well as those from previously published independent experiments. This validation lends confidence to the generality of the model for predicting blue, white, and green signal light brightness, but different colors (e.g., yellow or red) remain to be tested and modeled using this approach.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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