LEDs - Light Source of the Future?

by mike Brunt

Originally developed over 40 years ago and first years commercially as indicator lights in electronic components, LEDs or Light Emitting Diodes have come a long way to where they are now being touted as the light source of the future due to their high efficiency, compact size and durable construction. Today LEDs are used for a huge variety of general lighting tasks, electronics and backlighting of LCD screens & displays, and even for large screens and video applications. Lighting is currently the fastest growth area for LED technology.

LEDs are a microscopic chip encapsulated in a lightweight, study epoxy resin enclosure that is more durable than traditional glass lamps or fluorescent tubes. Because they have no fragile or moving parts they are resistant to vibration and virtually indestructible. Wtih an epoxy resin coating, LEDs are able to withstand extreme temperatures and also resist moisture damage.

Recent developments in LED technology have seen significant improvements in their light output with the new Array range of replacement bulbs from Nexxus Lighting. Array is the first commercially available LED chip with a luminous flux of 95lmW (lumens/Watt) and available in 4 size from 1.2W - now LEDs are available in most common bulb and pin configurations.

The only downside to LEDs for general domestic lighting is the perceived cost, and when retrofitting LEDs transformers may need to be changed to meet the transformers minimum load requirements. Like any emerging product, there are many inferior products on the market that do not live up to manufacturers output claims or life expectancy. There are calls for industry regulation and universal performance and output measuring standard to be introduced. not all LEDs are created equal, and while saving money on the inital investment cost of purchasing LEDs, using inferior quality products can often result in costly replacments and will decrease consumer confidence in LED technology. LED manufacturers are currently developing diodes manufactured from silicon based materials, which are non toxic and led expensive to manufacture than current gallium & sapphire based diodes that will not only help in the performance of LED chips but also help reduce their manufacturing cost.

There is no doubt that LEDs are more energy efficient in their running than both compact fluorescent, and incandescent bulbs, however little research or information is available on the true energy costs of producing LED chips or their heat sinks, nor on the effects of disposal of some colour LEDs (red & IR) which contain toxins and harmful materials. Unlike flourescents, LEDs contain no lead or mercury - a harmful toxin present in all compact fluorescent and requiring special disposal to prevent this heavy metal entering our waterways and environment.

With LED technology and output doubling every two years, and new, more cost effective materials being used in their production, LEDs will become a more attractive and realistic lighting option for domestic consumers. If LEDs can be manufactured using no more energy than common incandescent bulbs, then they will help reduce the electricity consumption from lighting by as much as 90%, reducing carbon outputs, alleviating the need for hundreds of new power plants and helping to turn our world into a brighter place.

Mike Brunt is a director of Specialized Lighting Concepts, a New Zealand owned company that has been at the forefront of introducing Fibre Optic, LED and solid state lighting technologies to the local market.




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