The 2014 Nobel Prize in physics was awarded to three Japanese scientists for the invention of blue light-emitting diodes (LEDs), a technology that has touched society in innumerable ways and enabled technologies that Americans take for granted every day.
Here are five ways LED lights are transforming the world as we know it:
- White Light - Blue LEDs, in combination with red and green LEDs (which had been discovered previously), make it possible to produce white light. This kind of lighting is much more energy-efficient and has a longer life span than conventional incandescent lights.
- Car Lights - LEDs used to be used only for daytime running lights, but now, many new cars have LED headlights for nighttime use
- Energy Efficiency - About 1.2 billion people in the world don't have access to any form of electric lighting. But, combine a LED with a rechargeable battery and a solar cell, and people suddenly have to light off the grid anywhere. Sunlight charges the battery during the day, which powers the LED during the night. In addition to generating light, LEDs can incorporate sensors that detect when people are in a room, and switch off the lights when no one is there — a requirement for any smart home.
- Digital Displays - In the electronics industry, LEDs provide backlighting for the liquid crystal displays (LCDs) in many smartphones, laptops, and televisions. The LEDs are more energy-efficient than the fluorescent lights that are sometimes used for backlighting, and allow for very thin displays. We all want an ever-larger TV screen, butorder to foot the power bill, large TVs must be extremely energy-efficient. LED TVs meet those requirements.
- Clean and Green - The technology is starting to be used for water purification. Currently, purification plants use mercury lamps to kill any microbes in drinking water, but these lamps consume a lot of electricity. By contrast, LED light can purify water directly at the faucet, and turn on or off as needed — resulting in huge cost savings. Only a few companies are working on LED water purification right now, but in a few years, it will be everywhere. The rise of LED lighting came at a time when people were just starting to be concerned.