Micron Enters Lighting Products Market

BOISE, Idaho (AP) -- Boise-based computer chip maker Micron Technology Inc. said it will try to brighten its financial prospects by developing a line of energy efficient lighting products.

Micron on Thursday announced it is working to develop new light-emitting diode technology, which uses a fraction of the energy needed to power standard lighting sources.

"There are a variety of ways LEDS are built," Scott DeBoer, Micron vice president of process research and development, told the Idaho Statesman. "No one is building them at a price that is competitive."

The company had been considering the move for some time. Last spring, the Idaho Office of Energy Resources requested $5 million in stimulus money from the federal government so Micron could develop the light-emitting diodes.

The money came through on Thursday, prompting the public announcement that the company plans to convert the technology it uses to make dynamic random-access memory chips to produce the new products.

That type of chip has suffered in the past two years from oversupply and pricing pressure on chips used in personal computers and the slumping automobile industry.

As a result, Micron has been laying off 2,000 people this year in Boise as it ended computer-chip manufacturing on its Boise campus.

The LED market, meanwhile, had $5 billion in sales in 2008 and is expected to grow to $12.5 billion by 2013. Uses for LED technology include commercial, residential, streetlights and other outdoor area lighting.

The company has already put 30 people from its research and development staff to work on the project, and officials said they hope to eventually hire more workers if they can perfect the manufacturing process.

The company wants to start full production of LEDs in 2011.

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