Without light there is no life

 By Nicholas Newman

The replacement of old fashioned light bulbs with LEDs is playing a big role in fighting global warming as windmills, solar panels or electric cars. The light-emitting diode or LED light has created an energy revolution, producing a crisp white glow with up to 80 percent less power than traditional incandescent lamps. The inventors of the LED were awarded the Nobel Prize in physics in 2014 for creating the blue light needed to complete the colour spectrum, which spawned a new industry in 1997. Nicholas Newman looks at how LEDs are saving us money and how it is used in the all aspects of our life, including providing specialized lighting for cars, medical applications and theatres…

The light of the sun and even artificial lighting are essential to human existence and comfort; the latter by extending the day beyond the onset of night and facilitating the 24 hour day of work, rest and play. In recent years, traditional light bulbs have been giving way to more energy-efficient light-emitting diode (LED) lights both indoors and outdoors, offering novel lighting solutions and new uses such as LED signage in the transportation sector.

New opportunities

The development of LED lights has opened a range of new opportunities, chief of which is LED digital signage, used to provide real-time information for travelers by bus, car, cycle, ferry, train or tram. LED signage is becoming commonplace to divert, entertain and inform travelers about arrivals, delays and waiting times for services. In addition, LED lights are becoming ubiquitous as lighting on cars, motorcycles and bicycles, owing to their mechanical robustness and long life.

Elsewhere, LED’s are being used as a source of light for machine vision systems, which require bright and consistent illumination to make it easier to record and monitor information. A case in point is the barcode reader which tallies shopping items at the check-out; the optical computer mouse that navigates the personal computer; and atmospheric detectors measuring dust, haze, smog, smoke, volcanic emissions and even clouds of water droplets or ice.

In addition to fulfilling these functional tasks, LED’s can also fulfill a highly creative role, making the humdrum beautiful and exciting, since they embody a broad spectrum of colors and have the ability to change color in rapid succession. Examples include the illumination of historic buildings by LED lights as well as structures of architectural interest such as theEiffel Tower, whose LED lights change color in time to music and can be orchestrated to display the national flag. As was the case recently, to display solidarity with the victims of terror in both Paris and Brussels.

The marketing of LED- equipped 3-D Virtual Reality Goggles such as the Samsung Gear VR, can change the way we perceive the world. Here, images in the form of light are directly projected into the human eye, thereby creating a virtual image in which the user can feel part of the action. For example, the PC Gamer can now experience, in 3-D, walking with lions in the Kruger National Park of South Africa.

See Samsung Gear VR Demonstration

The market for LEDs

Governments in Europe, Asia and America are successfully orchestrating the phasing out of traditional lighting technologies in favor of sustainable and flexible LED lighting. According to a report entitled 2016 Global LED Lighting Market Trends by LED inside, a division of TrendForce, the LED market will amount to $30.5 billion in 2016 or roughly 36 percent of the value of the world lighting market. The top three markets for LED lighting are the U.S., Europe and Japan and this year the U.S. and India are expected to be the main growth markets. Growth in the U.S., owes much to the increase in the legal cultivation of marijuana for medical purposes for which LED based horticultural lighting is ideal. In the case of India, government procurement plans to buy 200 million LED light bulbs by the end of 2016 and tenders on LED streetlights are the main drivers for sales, reports Bloomberg.

LEDs advantages

LED lighting is both environmentally and financially user-friendly. In the long term, LED lighting for the home and office can provide substantial savings on electricity bills which, of themselves ,are not insignificant. For example, lighting consumed at least 11 percent (412 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of North America’s electricity production in 2014, reports the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). Replacing all traditional lighting with LED could halve the amount of electricity used for lighting. In the UK, the home user would benefit to the tune of £240 ($347) a year in savings on electricity bills, reports the Daily Telegraph.

Imagine from youtube

The future

LED lighting technology is marketed on the basis of energy savings leading to lower bills. However, a recent study, “Emergent Effects of Residential Lighting Choices: Prospects for Energy Savings” published in the Journal of Industrial Ecologyraises doubts over the actual savings that will be achieved. It argues that over the last 300 years, as lighting technology progressed from whale oil lamps to gas and kerosene lamps to electric incandescent bulbs, energy efficiency improved while individual’s lighting bills declined. Yet, these savings were negated by the increase in consumption of lighting arising from the new functions lighting performed. LED lights are being used for a range of tasks unheard of even a decade ago, for instance, as mood lighting at home and in the office.

Visijax 2nd Generation LED Cycle Jackets With Indicators

Already, cycle jackets incorporate LED lighting to improve visibility and protect cyclists from fellow road travelers. It is not fanciful to expect that such technology will enable soldiers to merge into the landscape with lighting that adopts the appearance of clothing and blends with its surroundings. As for the fashion conscious, LED lighting incorporated in clothing material could enable the wearer to control their light emissions to reflect their mood. The possibilities are endless and as LED technologies improve and costs fall, LED lighting seems destined to become ubiquitous.

about the author
Nicholas Newman
Freelance energy journalist and copywriter who regularly writes for AFRELEC, Economist, Energy World, EER, Petroleum Review, PGJ, E&P, Oil Review Africa, Oil Review Middle East. Shale Gas Guide.