High Demand for Better TVs Means Shortage of LEDs Likely To Hit This Year

LED lights photo

Photo via Joe Seggiola via Flickr CC

Well, it's almost no surprise, considering how popular LEDs have become for everything from lighting up thousands of Starbucks shops to fashion-centric crafts. The popularity of LEDs - or light-emitting diodes - is likely to cause a shortage this year, and it could lead to even higher prices for the already expensive technology, from costly LED-backlit LCD televisions to bulbs.
According to electronic market research firm iSuppli, 2010 will see a global supply shortage of LEDs and the market devices they're used in, reports Crave - that is, unless production speeds up.

LED chart image

Image via iSuppli

IN 2009, total consumption of LEDs hit 63 billion units, and the industry's total capacity is about 75 billion units. It's expected that 2010 will see a demand for around 80 billion units (and around 100 billion in 2011) and unless manufacturing increases significantly, we aren't going to see much of a boost in the availability of inexpensive LEDs to light our way...or our television screens.

"It is clear that demand is outstripping supply," said Jagdish Rebello, senior director and principal analyst for wireless research at iSuppli. "With LED market growth forecasted to rise by double-digit percentages for at least the next three years--including 2010--a drastic undersupply situation could occur this year unless additional capacity is brought online to meet the increased demand."

Much of the demand is due to LED-backlit LCD televisions, which are the newest product to hit the market providing super high quality picture with minimal energy consumption. It was all the rage at this year's Consumer Electronics Show, and while prices are still rather high for these televisions, demand is catching up quickly. The televisions use far more LEDs than other devices like notebooks - needing around 300 to 500 LEDs versus 50 to 100 LEDs for a typical monitor. While LEDs are found in everything from our notebooks and netbooks to our cell phones to digital cameras, it's TVs that are at the heart of the shortage. And the use of the technology in new design isn't slowing - as iSuppli states, " The general illumination market for LEDs is still in its infancy, but will become mainstream during the next two years."

iSuppli notes, however, that manufacturers are working to keep up the supply, with two major LED vendors - Aixtron of Germany and Veeco Instruments of the United States - planning to double their production capacity by the end of this year. While LED Technology is indeed a boon for energy efficient lighting and displays, this situation reminds us of one of our bad habits: making more to meet demand, rather than questioning the demand. If we were more aware of where we utilize the technology and become more frugal in our purchase of electronics, the shortage wouldn't be so drastic. But for now, businesses will scurry to increase production, and prices for technology utilizing LEDs will remain on the high side.

More on LCDs
Are You Ready for LED Light Bulbs?
LED Lights Rock! Why They're an Undeinable Part of Our Green Future
LED vs. CFL: Life-Cycle Study Shows a Close Race, but LED Likely to Take the Lead

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