In recent years, LED performance has caused an abundance of hype in the lighting technology market. What’s all the fuss about LED bulbs? Turns out there’s quite a bit to rave about…
The history of LED light bulbs
Light emitting diodes, or LEDs, are among the most rapidly advancing lighting technologies available today. Highly efficient, long lasting, and environmentally friendly, LED bulbs, like other forms of lighting technology, have progressed thanks to the work of multiple inventors….
- 1961 In an attempt to create a laser diode, Robert Biard and Gary Pittman accidentally invented - and patented - an infrared LED for Texas Instruments. Since infrared light is beyond the visible light spectrum, however, it does not affect the consumer market.
- 1962 Nick Holonyack, consulting engineer for GE, invents the first visible (red) LED using a gallium arsenide phosphide as a substrate for the diode.
- 1972 Electrical engineer M George Craford invents the first yellow LED for the Monsanto Company using gallium arsenide phosphide in the diode, as well as a red LED 10 times brighter than Holonyack's. Monsanto Company is the first to mass-produce visible red LEDs as indicators. A few years later Fairchild Optoelectronics also begins to produce low-cost LED devices for manufacturers.
- 1976 Thomas P. Pearsall invents a high efficiency, extremely bright LED for use in fiber optics and fiber telecommunications, including new semiconductor materials optimized for optical fiber transmission wavelengths.
- 1994 Shuji Nakamura invents the first blue LED using gallium nitride. This quickly leads to the discovery of white LEDs – blue diodes coated with phosphor. Researchers then demonstrate white light using red, green, and blue LEDs, leading to breakthroughs in lighting technology such as LED traffic lights, flashlights, and TVs.
- 2000 Since the first LEDs were no more efficient than incandescents, the Department of Energy (D.O.E.) partners with private industry to push white LED technology forward, creating a high efficiency device that packages LEDs together.
- 2009-2011 Philips Lighting North America enters its LED bulb in the D.O.E.’s L Prize competition in the 60-watt replacement category, a commonly used bulb size. After rigorous testing, the D.O.E. awards Philips first prize in 2011. This drives others in the lighting industry to strive higher.
- LEDs today Since their introduction, LEDs have come down tremendously in price, more than 85 percent, and are now available for $10 or less. Thanks to their efficiency, they are capable of covering their own costs after the first year of use, paying for themselves many times over in their 10-year lifespan.
LEDs – the future of lighting technology. Compared to the older lighting technology of incandescents and fluorescents, LEDs offer an array of advantages. Highly efficient, today’s LED bulbs are 100 percent efficient at turning energy into light, up to 50 percent more efficient than compact fluorescents (CFLs), and up to 85 percent more efficient than traditional incandescents. They also last 2-5 times longer than CFLs and 25 times longer than incandescents, reducing the need for frequent bulb replacement and excess landfill waste. Highly versatile, LED bulbs don’t flicker, are not affected by extreme temperatures, are dimmable, produce a high quality of light, and don’t emit UV light or contain hazardous materials such as mercury. What are LED bulbs made of? How do they work? Today’s LED bulbs feature solid-state lighting technology (SSL), emitting light from solid matter (a semiconductor), versus the vacuum in an incandescent or the gas in a CFL. Using a semiconductor made of a positively and negatively charged component, an LED produces light by moving electrons around its structure – a positive layer with holes for electrons and negative layer where free electrons can float. When electricity is used to move the electrons, they emit light as they flow into the positively charged holes. How common are LED bulbs?
- In 2012 alone, more than 49 million LEDs were installed in the U.S., saving about $675 million in annual energy costs.
- The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that widespread adoption of LED bulbs by 2025 will reduce lighting electricity demands by 62 percent, eliminating 258 million metric tons of carbon emissions.
- Global sales of all types of LEDs are expected to grow from about $3.6 billion in 2013 to slightly more than $7 billion in 2016.
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