LEDs set to revolutionise lighting

December 17th, 2008 - 2:58 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Dec 17 (IANS) Energy efficient, ecologically sound light emitting diodes, or LEDs, are emerging as the hottest choice in illuminating homes and businesses. “We are on the verge of a revolution,” says E. Fred Schubert, professor of electrical engineering and physics at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute New York and co-author of a paper on the subject. “There are tremendous opportunities that open up with LED.”

Schubert predicted that widespread use of LEDs over 10 years would save more than $1 trillion in energy costs, eliminate the need for nearly a billion barrels of oil over 10 years, and lead to a substantial cuts in emissions of carbon dioxide, the most common greenhouse gas.

LEDs are more like hard plastic than thin glass. They are also more environmentally sound, since their manufacture does not require toxic substances such as mercury.

As an alternative to the incandescent light bulb, LEDs provide significant energy savings. They can be 2,000 percent more efficient than conventional light bulbs and 500 percent more efficient than compact fluorescent bulbs.

All of these advantages make LEDs a good replacement light source, said Schubert, adding that this is why there has been a tremendous recent expansion of the LED industry, which is growing by double-digit rates.

However, he adds, the true potential of LED lighting lies in their ability to transform — rather than simply replace — lighting technology.

“Replacement is fine,” said Schubert. “But we must look beyond the replacement paradigm to see the true benefits of LED lights.”

Schubert envisions a day when light switches give way to light switchboards that control not only the brightness of a light, but its colour, temperature and hue.

Light spectra could be custom-tailored for all wavelengths, accurately matching the sun’s light qualities and vary these characteristics according to the time of day, for instance, said a Rensselaer release.

This could revolutionise indoor agriculture and help night-shift workers and people who are jet-lagged. The use of polarised light from LEDs could also improve computer displays and lower the glare from car headlights.

The paper appreared in the latest special energy issue of Optics Express, the Optical Society’s (OSA) open-access journal.

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