The last decade has been a monumental one for light-emitting diodes (LEDs), and the next one looks to be even more promising. For the average consumer, the innovative technology has only just now been brought to light (so to speak). Today, you will find LEDs in just about every piece of electronic equipment on the market. Consequently, LEDs are also credited with the potential to save the world, in a very literal sense — saving energy by increasing performance and decreasing maintenance — a task far removed from their initial role of simply gracing the digital displays of watches, alarm clocks, and calculators.
Many might be surprised to learn that the now popular LED technology can trace its roots to more than 100 years ago. In 1907, British scientist Henry J. Round discovered that the junction of a semiconductor produced light, albeit dim. After his discovery, various scientists sporadically tried their hand at improving the semiconductor’s efficiency and versatility. For instance, the forgotten and still unnamed technology briefly resurfaced in 1936 under the term “electroluminescence” in a report by George Destriau. Some real progress was made in the 1950s by the British, but it wasn’t until 1962 that the first visible LED light was produced by Nick Holonyak Jr., an employee of General Electric Company. Since then, researchers and scientists have been working slowly but surely to develop, improve, and expand LED technology, bringing it to what we see in our present time.
LED lighting as we know it today is really a modern marvel, and it is taking the world by storm. A pioneer symbol of the “green” movement, LEDs have bested the incandescent bulb by outstanding margins. Not only are LEDs physically brighter, they burn cooler and consume up to 90 percent less energy than conventional lighting methods. And that’s just bulb for bulb. Currently, LED lights are used in a host of different products and technologies. Take a look at the LED’s high-profile accomplishments as of late:
- LED technology found its way into the Super Bowl, U2 concert tour, and outer-space.
- LED innovations continue to battle cancer and climate change.
- LED lighting revolutionized the arts by illuminating theater stages, historic monuments, and the silver screen — even winning an Emmy.
- LEDs played a huge role in our sacred holiday traditions this year, lighting up nationally-recognized Christmas trees and the iconic Times Square New Year’s Eve Ball.
With a resume like this, there’s no telling where LEDs will take us next.
While one can only speculate just how far LEDs will advance into the future, I don’t think there’s any doubt that LED innovation will be the catalyst to get us there. After observing LED trends and markets for some time now, here are some likely possibilities that I think you can expect to see in the coming years:
- Cheaper LEDs for the home. Expect this to be the first of a number of lighting innovations. As Europe has now banned the sale of incandescent bulbs and the United States is set to follow suit in 2012, product developers will be diligently working to make LEDs more accessible to the average consumer.
- LED wallpaper/ceilings. This innovation is currently in development as we speak. Instead of having light fixtures, we’ll have entire walls and ceiling that produce light, opening up huge new realms of possibilities regarding interior (and exterior) lighting.
- LED custom lighting. In tandem with LED ceilings and walls, expect these innovations to be controlled by a switchboard or digital display that can customize all the different variants and properties of lighting including color, brightness, hue, temperature, and more.
- Replace the sun. Down the road, LEDs have the potential to, for all intents and purposes, replace the sun. Not literally, of course, but LEDs may have the ability to recreate natural sunlight in a way the would positively impact conditions like seasonal depression and other sun-related illness or disease.
As you can see, LED technology has the potential to take the world to new, brighter heights. As time goes by, it will be exciting to watch where the innovative technology leads us, and what interesting places it illuminates.
~Richard McNeal, 2010