NICU Spectral Lighting System for Health Innovations 


In 2017, a brief conversation about lighting in the new Critical Care Building (CCB) evolved into the idea that a unique research capability at CCHMC could be established with a novel lighting technology inspired by our biological discoveries. A close collaboration between James Greenberg and Richard Lang, working with CCB architects ZGF alongside lighting companies BIOS and Acuity, has resulted in the development, design, and installation of a novel research grade, spectrally tunable lighting system. This system allows us to closely mimic natural sunlight and most notably, produces the violet light wavelengths that stimulate important biological pathways. The general benefit of rhythmic lighting in the NICU has been established but the new lighting system advances many steps beyond this basic idea and provides precise spectral-tuning for unique patient and study populations.


New knowledge about light-sensing proteins affords opportunity for translation into better health and wellness outcomes. Our new spectral lighting system in the Cincinnati Children’s NICU is a novel resource to advance care for our patients and families.

James Greenberg, MD

Co-Director, Perinatal Institute, Cincinnati Children's Hospital

Recent discovery of photoreceptors located outside the eye in a variety of tissues alerted us to new biological pathways crucial for mammalian physiology. The spectral lighting system in the NICU rooms of the Critical Care Building is a powerful research tool designed to help us understand how light sensing physiology works for our youngest patients.

Richard Lang, PhD

Director, Visual Systems Group , Cincinnati Children's Hospital

As part of the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, the novel Spectral Lights in the NICU have the power to emulate sunlight through multiple arrays of tunable LEDs. Shown here are various spectral profiles.  

Understanding the Science behind the NICU Spectral Lights


To quantify and reflect the intensities of light needed, a spectrometer, placed on the roof of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, takes constant, real-time measurements of the sun. Being able to recreate sunlight inside the NICUs has crucial benefits for circadian biology, vascularization, growth, and metabolism; additionally, the benefits of providing the pleasing visual effect of sunrise and sunset can help decrease anxiety and help with mood.

Daniel Kang

Clinical Research Coordinator, Cincinnati Children's Hospital