Blue LED inventors win Nobel Prize for "energy-efficient, environmentally-friendly light source"

Blue LEDs
CC BY-SA 3.0 Wikimedia

Incandescent light bulbs have lit the 20th century....

Years ago we said that LEDs are without a doubt the future. But time marches on, and LEDs are not just the future anymore, they're the present thanks to rapidly falling prices and improving quality. We've firmly entered into the LED era, as Lloyd showed with his experience of converting 100% of his lights to LEDs.

The Nobel committee seems to agree. The physics Nobel Prize this year is going to three distinguished scientists - Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano, and Shuji Nakamura - who invented the blue LED, the last piece of the puzzle that was required for LEDs to truly reach their potential as a mass-market light source.

Why was blue so important? Because without it, we couldn't make high-quality white light from LEDs.

"Red and green LEDs have been around for a long time but blue was really missing. Thanks to the blue LED we now can get white light sources which have very high energy efficiency and very long lifetime," Per Delsing, a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, told a news conference.

LED lights graphicNobel Prize/Screen capture

...the 21st century will be lit by LED lamps

As you can see on the graphic below, LEDs crush the competition when it comes to efficiency. Most LED lights that you can buy right now are nowhere near the 300 lumens/watt shown here, but this is what we know they are capable of, and over the coming years we should progressively move closer to that target.

About 20% of the world's electricity is used for lighting. With optimal use of LEDs, that figure could fall to 4%. That's a really big deal. This represents the equivalent of hundreds of large power plants that would no longer be necessary, and by reducing electricity consumption, it will be easier to switch to clean sources of energy like solar and wind.

LED lights graphicNobel Prize/Screen capture

But energy-efficiency isn't the only thing. Material efficiency is also much higher for LEDs than the competition. A LED can last up to 100,000 hours, compared to 1,000 for incandescent bulbs and 10,000 hours for fluorescent lights. This means that only a fraction of the bulbs need to be produced and disposed of over time. In applications like traffic and street lights, it also reduces the need to have crews driving around, burning fuel, just to replace burned out lights.

Samsung LED 13W© Michael Graham Richard

LEDs are not only way more efficient than incandescent technology, which is sadly still by far the most popular out there, but because they emit light more directionally, they can also be better cutomized to various applications. For example, these LED floodlights cost 50% less than the version they replace and cut energy use by 70%.

Buenos Aires LED street lamps© Philips

Some cities, like Buenos Aires, have started replacing street lights with LED. Buenos Aires is switching around 100,000 street lamps to LED technology, cutting energy use by 50%. The quality of light is also improved, so that people can better see when they're out at night.

Via Nobel Prize

Tags: Energy Efficiency | LEDs

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