FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Friday, April 15, 2005

Seeing the Light with LED

In our high-tech world, the backbone of our electrical lighting system -- the incandescant light bulb -- is a 19th century technology, little changed from the days of Edison. But it will soon have a contender: light-emitting diodes (LEDs) that burn cooler, last longer, are more rugged, and use less energy.

LEDs have, of course, been around for years. The reason why they have never been used for lighting is because no one had figured out a way to make an LED that gave off white light. They exist now, but they remain cost-prohibitive for most applications.

Prices for LED light bulbs are expected to fall, and when that happens, they'll have a ready market. The US Department of Energy estimates that widespread adoption of LED lighting could cut national energy consumption by nearly 30% by 2025 (with the price of oil rising, political support could rise for rebate programs and tax breaks for LED light conversion). And because an LED light can last at least six years, maintenance costs associated with light bulb replacement will drop as well. The longevity of LED lights make them attractive for rough-service applications, and in places where the replacement of bulbs is physically difficult.

Source: AP (Excite)