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Science Technology

LED Evolution Could Spell The End For Bulbs 482

An anonymous reader writes "USA Today is running a story discussing how LED lamps were unthinkable until the technology cleared a major hurdle just a dozen years ago. Since then, LEDs have evolved quickly and are being adapted for many uses, including pool illumination and reading lights, as evidenced at the Lightfair trade show here this week. More widespread use could lead to big energy savings and a minor revolution in the way we think about lighting."
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LED Evolution Could Spell The End For Bulbs

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  • by keesh ( 202812 ) on Saturday April 16, 2005 @06:25AM (#12253726) Homepage
    I know that this is true because I read it in the Bible. They did not evolve, they were created by God.
  • by Dancin_Santa ( 265275 ) <DancinSanta@gmail.com> on Saturday April 16, 2005 @06:26AM (#12253730) Journal
    I guess we are going to start having "illumiphiles" who will try to tell us that the incandescent lightbulbs of yesteryear are somehow "warmer" and that humans can tell the difference between LEDs and vacuum tubes.
    • Most incandescent bulbs are 'warmer' than most flourescent for things which matter. I think this is due to the fact they actually rely on heat to generate the light.

      However, as with all things, you can get flourescent tubes which have a really warming glow, and the halogen bulbs in my room have a much cleaner light than ordinary bulbs.

      Additionally, they don't have mains flicker. When I went to the US the flicker from flourescent tubes drove me insane (in the UK they flicker at 50Hz, what is it in the stat
      • Re:But it's warmer.. (Score:5, Informative)

        by ComputerizedYoga ( 466024 ) on Saturday April 16, 2005 @07:48AM (#12253989) Homepage
        I'm in the US, I perceive flicker on 70hz and below refresh rate monitors, and on some old fluorescent lighting (but I've gotten used to it and can deal with it). But the thing is, a properly ballasted fluorescent lamp doesn't flicker at 50 or 60 hz. It flickers at 100 or 120 -- the ballast doubles the frequency from the mains frequency. Which is faster than most people perceive. However, solid state ballasts go WAY faster than that ... Wikipedia's entry on ballasts [wikipedia.org] is pretty informative.

        So, pretty much, newer better lamps shouldn't flicker perceptibly. I know my CFL's don't, and ever since we got the ballasts replaced the tubes at work don't either. But I guess YMMV.
        • Re:But it's warmer.. (Score:5, Informative)

          by unitron ( 5733 ) on Saturday April 16, 2005 @02:10PM (#12256105) Homepage Journal
          The ballast does nothing to the frequency, it just limits current by acting as a choke coil. It's an inductive load in series with the path through the ionized gas inside the tube. 60 Hertz means 60 cycles per second which means 60 positive peaks per second and 60 negative peaks per second which means 120 total peaks per second. Another way of looking at it is that there are 2 zero crossings per cycle, therefore 120 zero crossings per second.

          Light bulbs, incandescent or fluorescent, running off of house current "flash" 120 times per second.

          • Re:But it's warmer.. (Score:3, Informative)

            by sl3xd ( 111641 ) *
            Light bulbs, incandescent or fluorescent, running off of house current "flash" 120 times per second.

            Yeah, but incandescent don't have as much as an impulse to the flash. This is mostly due to the fact that they produce light as side-effect of their heat, and the wire doesn't cool down anywhere near as quickly as the next peak in the current. As a result, incandescent bulbs have a much smaller delta between the 'bright' and 'dark' parts of the cycle. Turn the power off on an incandescent bulb, and it has
      • Re:But it's warmer.. (Score:5, Informative)

        by UncleFluffy ( 164860 ) on Saturday April 16, 2005 @02:11PM (#12256110)

        When I went to the US the flicker from flourescent tubes drove me insane (in the UK they flicker at 50Hz, what is it in the states?).

        60Hz in the US, so for single tube installations you should see less flicker. However, in the UK, the Health and Safety regulations for offices require that multi-tube installations have the tubes fed from different phases of the supply. So a typical office setup with three tubes, one on each phase, gives you almost no noticable flicker.

    • You obviously aren't an "illumiphile." To an "illumiphile" the ideal is natural light. You know, the stuff we get from our Sun's blackbody radiation. While incadensent lights are close because they also use blackbody radiation (unlike LEDs and flourescent lights), they aren't perfect so real "illumiphiles" like windows. That's not to say that I wouldn't use LEDs, I'd probably use some LED, some flourescent, some halogen, and so on in addition to incandescent and good, old-fashioned windows since a good
      • by Anonymous Coward
        real "illumiphiles" like windows

        So don't expect to find many illumiphiles on Slashdot.
    • I guess we are going to start having "illumiphiles" who will try to tell us that the incandescent lightbulbs of yesteryear are somehow "warmer" and that humans can tell the difference between LEDs and vacuum tubes.

      But vacuum tubes are warmer. The first time I put my hand into a HAM radio set I got a blister. I'm telling ya a blind man could tell the difference.

    • Re:But it's warmer.. (Score:2, Informative)

      by Temporal ( 96070 )
      In fact, there is a major difference, even in theory. A white LED light is produced by combining red, green, and blue LEDs. If you were to take this white light and run it through a prism, you would not see it defract into a rainbow. Instead, you'd see a red beam, a green beam, and a blue beam.

      Now, technically our eyes only have receptors for red, green, and blue. So, what you would see would look mostly the same as under true white lite. However, the way light reflects off of surfaces can be more com
      • AFAIK, this is incorrect. I was disctinctly under the impression a white LED is created by using a special coating on a blue led.
      • Re:But it's warmer.. (Score:5, Informative)

        by Anne Thwacks ( 531696 ) on Saturday April 16, 2005 @07:46AM (#12253981)
        if you're one of those mutants with a fourth color receptor, you'll hate these lights. Reply to This

        Yes, I am. You might be too ...

        Most people have another type of receptor, called a rod, which is not colour sensitive, unlike the three kinds of cones which are colour sensitive. However, my rods have a much wide spectral response than the normally accepted colour range of white light. I have known for a long time that light without significant ultraviolet content makes it hard for me to accurately resolve edges. I find technical drawing very difficult by incandescent light. Others may be the same too.

        Remember 10% of men lack one kind of cone, and are partly colour blind. A lot more lack fashion sense, but you can't blame that on LEDs

        • Hmm, don't think so. (Score:5, Informative)

          by cosmol ( 143886 ) on Saturday April 16, 2005 @12:17PM (#12255313)
          Yes, I am. You might be too ...

          I doubt it, at least not the kind of person the grandparent is referring to. If you are you should be calling a research lab and asking for bids to be a guinea pig. Tetrachromats are extremely rare.

          This hypothesis sounds more likely (from http://www.physics.utoledo.edu/~lsa/_color/18_reti na.htm [utoledo.edu] Rods and all three cone types readily absorb ultraviolet radiation, photons of which are energetic enough to damage these delicate cells. The reason we cannot see in the UV is because the eye lens is opaque in that wavelength range. In addition, the cells in a region called the macula surounding and including the fovea contain a yellow pigment that further prevents short wave radiation from reaching the photo-receptors. Some people with less of this yellow pigment and those who have had their lenses replaced with plastic inserts can see further into the UV than normal people can.

      • Re:But it's warmer.. (Score:5, Informative)

        by Avian visitor ( 257765 ) on Saturday April 16, 2005 @07:53AM (#12254008) Homepage
        In fact, there is a major difference, even in theory. A white LED light is produced by combining red, green, and blue LEDs. If you were to take this white light and run it through a prism, you would not see it defract into a rainbow. Instead, you'd see a red beam, a green beam, and a blue beam.

        Did you actually did this experiment? Modern white LEDs have a single light emitting junction that mostly emitts light in the blue part of the spectrum. This junction is then covered with a phosphor-like coating that converts a narrow band of wavelengths to a broad band that you see as white light. This means that white LEDs have a continuous spectrum, much like the light bulbs.
        • Re:But it's warmer.. (Score:5, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 16, 2005 @08:20AM (#12254087)
          I'm not the one you replied to, but I did look up the spectrum -- it's shown here [att.net]. It's definitely more spread out than I would have guessed, but it doesn't look like an incandescent [mis.net],
          • Re:But it's warmer.. (Score:3, Interesting)

            by ballpoint ( 192660 )
            And you may assume that the spectrum of the LED+phosphor will be discrete, not continuous, so a lot of frequencies will be missing. The graph doesn't show that.

            Paints under fluorescent lighting will be muchg duller than under daylight. Most people don't care though. They only get depressed after a while, and don't know why.
          • But incandescents STILL don't match solar illumination.. which is why there are lights coming out that try to simulate it. I would guess that it would be possible to more closely approximate the solar spectrum with leds than incandescents eventually unless you can find a filament that can survive ~6300 K.
        • Re:But it's warmer.. (Score:3, Informative)

          by igrigorik ( 818839 )
          Correct, white LED is just a phosphor covered blue led. The patent is owned by Nichia and you can view the specifications here:

          http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PT O1&Sect2=HITOFF&d=PALL&p=1&u=/netahtml/srchnum.htm &r=1&f=G&l=50&s1=5,998,925.WKU.&OS=PN/5,998,925&RS =PN/5,998,925
      • Re:But it's warmer.. (Score:5, Informative)

        by Jah-Wren Ryel ( 80510 ) on Saturday April 16, 2005 @08:21AM (#12254091)
        In fact, there is a major difference, even in theory. A white LED light is produced by combining red, green, and blue LEDs.


        All modern white LEDs are single indium gallium emitters in the blue to uv range that are coated with a phosphor somewhat like that in a flourescent lamp. The energy from the blue led excites the phosphor into producing a multitude of wavelengths which we perceive as "white." Generally, the thicker the phosporus coating, the warmer the light (lower color temperature). The output is definitely a lot richer than three simple RGB wavelengths.
      • by Dogtanian ( 588974 ) on Saturday April 16, 2005 @09:13AM (#12254291) Homepage
        There are also more subtle issues at work with the 'R/G/B mixing' approach to colour generation. You can read more about them here [slashdot.org].

        To summarise; consider that the red, green and blue receptors are sensitive to a *range* of colours; the sensitivity curve for each receptor is roughly bell-shaped, peaking on red, green or blue light. There is also some overlap between the red and green sensitivity curves, and between green and blue (not red and blue IIRC).

        This is of course essential. Sensitivity narrowly focused on R, G or B would leave us unable to see intermediate colours (e.g. yellow!).
        Reasonable overlap is necessary, or
        (A) there would be certain intermediate frequencies that were not covered sufficiently by either receptor (e.g. certain shades of yellow in the valley between the red and green curves would be very hard to see), and
        (B) Colours would be quantised into 'red group', 'green group', or 'blue group' (think about it...)

        Because of the (necessary) sensitivity-curve overlap, the green receptor is slightly sensitive to red light, and so on. Where is this leading, you ask?

        True cyan has a frequency between blue and green. This is within the sensitivity range of both blue and green receptors; the brain can use the 'ratio' to figure out that it's looking at cyan. But true cyan is (to all intents and purposes) outside the red receptors' range, so the red receptor is not stimulated.

        Simulated cyan is made up of green and blue light. This stimulates the green and blue receptors in the same ratio as true cyan would, so in theory looks just like the real thing. However, the red receptor is also slightly sensitive to green light; thus, unlike with real cyan, the RGB-mixed version also stimulates the red receptor.

        This is (supposedly) what makes certain RGB-generated colours less convincing (hence the linked story above).

        This isn't even counting the fact that our colour receptors aren't exactly R, G and B, and therefore to simulate certain colours using RGB is impossible, as it requires one or more components to be negative. (If the receptors were exactly R, G and B, that would not be the case).
    • You jest, however (Score:5, Informative)

      by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Saturday April 16, 2005 @08:24AM (#12254097)
      Warm and cool are really terms used to describe white light. When you talk about white the question becomes what is it? A blend of all the colours is an elementary explination, but the fact is they aren't all present in equal levels, from any source.

      The way that it is talked about, is called colour temperature, and it is spoken of in kelvins. The idea is if you heat a black body radiator to that temperature, that's the kind of white you get. The lower the temperature, the more red in it, the higher the temperature, the more blue.

      On most monitors that aren't connected via DVI, you can see colour temperature changes for yourself. In its configuration there should be a colour temperature option, generally with three presets: 5000k, 6500k and 9300k. PLay with them and notice the change. You'll probably find that changing from the one you are used to looks "wrong", either too red or too blue depending on. That's an illusion, however. If you go away for awhile and come back, or just ignore it and keep working, you'll find your eyes adjust and consider that to be white.

      With bulbs, it gets more complex because it's not just a function of the temperature of the white, but of it's spectral composition. Most incandesant bulbs have a spectrum that is low on the high frequencies (near violet) and high on the low frequencies (near red). Other lights, like many floursecants, have an uneven spectrum, with peaks all over.

      Now ideally what you are shooting for usually is light as close to sunlight as you can get. That's what humans would generally think of as "normal" or "correct" lighting. Easier said than done, of course.

      So I don't know what the spectrum for any of the varities of white LEDs looks like, but it is very possible, even likely, that they are different than an incandescant bulb. It may be that they have a generally higher temperature and thus really are cooler, colourwise.
      • Re:You jest, however (Score:4, Interesting)

        by zippthorne ( 748122 ) on Saturday April 16, 2005 @12:08PM (#12255240) Journal
        With bulbs, it gets more complex because it's not just a function of the temperature of the white

        It is exactly a function of the temperature of the white.. in fact, it's exactly function of the temperature of the filament. (minus a few absorption bands)

        The function is given by Planck, Planck's Law of Blackbody Radiation [wolfram.com]

        The 'temperature' in your presets is an approximation to the Blackbody spectrum at those temperatures. Warmer and Cooler are, however, reversed when people discuss the whites of pictures etc. I suspect it's because for much of our history light would be either the sun or a fire - and everyone knows a fire is warm. (even though it is much cooler than the sun)

        Regardless, given enough complexity, leds could surely approximate a solar spectrum, but it would be very difficult for incandescents to reach the temperature required to actually emit a solar spectrum. (first you have to find a filament material that won't melt/vaporize at solar temperature.)
      • Re:You jest, however (Score:3, Interesting)

        by LMariachi ( 86077 )
        When people talk about "warm" and "cool" light, they usually mean the opposite of what the Kelvin color temperature would suggest. A higher color temperature is a "cooler" light because blue is considered a cooler color than yellow and orange. (This is in the applied lighting field; scientist types may use the terms differently.)
    • Re:But it's warmer.. (Score:3, Informative)

      by fm6 ( 162816 )
      Oddly enough, the warmth issue is already with us. Not in lighting but in sound. Most amplifiers are solid state these days, but you still hear from people who insist that vacuum tubes provide a "warmer sound". Of course, what they call "warmth" a guy with an EE degree calls "distortion".
  • Certainly (Score:4, Funny)

    by Dorsai65 ( 804760 ) <dkmerrimanNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Saturday April 16, 2005 @06:26AM (#12253731) Homepage Journal
    an illuminating article...
  • by jcr ( 53032 ) <jcr@@@mac...com> on Saturday April 16, 2005 @06:26AM (#12253732) Journal
    I'd buy them for that capability alone.

    I wonder when we might see LEDs with enough brightess to serve as a projector lamp?


  • by Nichotin ( 794369 ) on Saturday April 16, 2005 @06:27AM (#12253733)
    the lightbulb industry lobbies the congress to ban LED technology that will ruin the market for lightbulbs.
    • Too late. There aren't enough voters in the US whose living depends on manufacturing lightbulbs to get the congress critters to knife the baby..


    • Sounds like a plan.

      But I don't see LEDs being serious competition until you can buy a bulb which looks like an incandescent, but uses LEDs internally. Just look at fluorescent bulbs... you still don't see so many of those around, possibly because they are awfully ugly. :-/

      • bare incandescents are just as ugly as fluorescents. Maybe uglier! Those filaments are such a small point, and such an intense light source that it's pretty unpleasant to look at them. I'd rather have one of my 14 watt fluorescents shined in my eyes than the 60 watt incandescents they replaced.

        I think the main reason there's not widespread adoption of those fluorescent bulbs is that people don't think in the long-term. In the short term, a pack of walmart brand bulbs costs 75 cents and there's 4 of the
    • the lightbulb industry lobbies the congress to ban LED technology that will ruin the market for lightbulbs.

      No, they would probably sue the last of the die hard lightbulb users because they prefer the yellow glow of an incandescent bulb.

      Actually, the LED makers might lobby congress for their non-use because they last so long, but they will be so blinded by the new profits that they will not probably think that far, and instead just make shittier ones so people will buy more.

      All sarcasm aside. LEDs are o
  • Is this true? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 16, 2005 @06:28AM (#12253738)
    For starters: LEDs aren't as efficient as many people seem to think, iirc they're a bit more efficient than normal lightbulbs, but TL-lamps and other gas-ionisation-type lamps are still way more efficient. Secondly: While LEDs may emit light for 6 years continuously, they have a certain half-life that's way shorter than that; at the end of the 6-year life span, the leds probably only emit 1/4th of what they did when they were new.
    • by egosum ( 758988 ) on Saturday April 16, 2005 @07:05AM (#12253869)
      Just this week, researchers at the Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., said they had boosted the light output per watt of a white LED to almost six times that of an incandescent light bulb, beating even a compact fluorescent bulb in efficiency.
    • Re:Is this true? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by BaatZ ( 850474 )
      Excuse me, but iirc you are wrong about this.

      LED's use the fact that at the P/N junction (that's what LED's actually are), electrons flow into a lower energy state, emitting the excessive energy as light. Since there hardly is any resistance in a ligt (typically less than 10^-14 Ohm), almost all electric energy is converted into ligt. You can also feel for yourself; led's won't get hot even after long operating times.

      Gas ionisation tubes, however, are quite primitive. It's just accellerating some gas in
  • by Motherfucking Shit ( 636021 ) on Saturday April 16, 2005 @06:32AM (#12253749) Journal
    I used to think of LEDs as cute little indicator lights. A nice tiny, soft green LED light tells me that my monitor is on, or blinkenlights let me know that packets are flowing through my router. An orange LED might alert me to standby mode on a device. None of them were really all that visible unless I was looking directly at them, and certainly none put out any ambient light.

    Then I got my newest computer. This thing has a single blue LED backlighting an area the size of a dime, behind the power button on the case. When I turn off all the lights, after a minute or so of my eyes adapting, the single blue LED gives off enough light to illuminate half the room. For the first week or so, I had trouble getting to sleep because of the light... From one blue LED.

    As the technology gets better I can imagine LED lamps coming in vogue. I seriously doubt that the end of the bulb will come anytime soon, though. Probably not in my lifetime.
    • by ShaunC ( 203807 ) on Saturday April 16, 2005 @06:46AM (#12253803)
      Ugh. Blue LEDs are, without a doubt, the most annoying new fad in consumer gadgetry. The problem is they're suddenly showing up in everything, replacing green LEDs as the default.

      A couple of months ago I bought an all-in-one VCR/DVD deck that plays and records to both tapes and DVDs. Hell of a convenient unit, except that when you power this puppy up, it has four blue LEDs on its face. One for "power on," one for "disc in," one for "tape in," and one down by the controls which I guess is there for the hell of it. The clock is a matched-color blue LCD display.

      The blue LEDs are absolute distractions. Even during the day, with the lights on or the sun coming in the windows, my eyes want to focus on the blue lights instead of on the TV screen. I'm not sure whether it's the intensity of the LEDs, or the fact that the eyes are more sensitive to blue light. Probably some combination of both - they chose blue strobes on cop cars for a reason I guess - but whatever, it's damned annoying.

      Give me a soft green LED any day. Enough with these bright blue ones.
    • Same with my box, until I replaced it with a far nicer green one.
  • Not new (Score:5, Interesting)

    by The Tyro ( 247333 ) * on Saturday April 16, 2005 @06:32AM (#12253752)
    This is no surprise... it's been this way in flashlights (hand torches, to you brits) for a while, particularly the higher-end ones and those designed for specialty applications.

    As an example, some of the weapon-mounted lights being used by the military are also going to LEDs. Some of the regular incandescent bulbs just don't hold up as well to the punishing recoil of most weapons... you were forever changing bulbs. The higher end incandescent lights like the Sure-Fire lights [surefire.com] could take the shock, but forget mounting anything like a mag-lite [maglite.com] on a weapon.

    Best thing about them: they're easy on the batteries. Batteries are heavy, and there's nothing worse than having to carry too many spares. Every ounce counts when you're carrying it on your back.
    • Re:Not new (Score:5, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 16, 2005 @06:58AM (#12253844)
      "but forget mounting anything like a mag-lite on a weapon"

      YOU SEE!!! Doom 3 had it right all along!
    • Re:Not new (Score:5, Funny)

      by a whoabot ( 706122 ) on Saturday April 16, 2005 @07:19AM (#12253905)
      Your sig reminds me of a conversation two people I knew/know had.

      One was just a regular guy. One was a girl that knew taekwondo and I guess was pretty good at it. He would bug her that even though she knew a deadly art of self defense he could still beat her, just because she was a girl. This would tick her off and eventually it escalated one day into seriously discussing setting up a "no holds barred" fight between the two.

      At one point of the discussion he was like, "Wait wait wait wait wait. If she gives me a compound fracture, am I allowed to stab her with my exposed bone?"

      It only made it funnier that he was serious.

      They never got to fighting because eventually she became convinced of his psychosis when he started agressively arguing that even biting and the gouging of eyes were not be barred:

      "Well, it just so happens that I think my stomach for, and skill in, gouging eyes are my greatest abilities. If I'm barred from such an act then I can't imagine how this fight would not be a handicap fight in your favour. It's tying my hands behind my back."
    • Re:Not new (Score:5, Insightful)

      by theonetruekeebler ( 60888 ) on Saturday April 16, 2005 @07:46AM (#12253978) Homepage Journal
      I have a Petzl 3 LED headlamp , the size of half a golf ball, with a retracting headband. I keep it in my motorcycle tank bag---and use to hike to the the deer stand. Incredibly light, good for reading in a tent, for roadside map consultation (back before I invested in a GPS). Three LEDs, sips battery power, a good, natural color of light.

      The absolute best use for new-generation LEDs I have seen is for brake lights. Many high-end cars, and even some delivery trucks, use LEDs now, and the advantages are clear: they are damned bright, highly directional, don't burn out, and best of all, they reach full brightness a tenth of a second faster than an incandescent bulb. That may not sound like much, but at 60MPH, 0.1 second is 8.8 feet extra feet for the car behind you to start reacting (100km/h ==> 2.8m in 0.1s). I have blinky LEDs on my motorcycle and they solve all sorts of problems with tailgaters.

  • by Paris The Pirate ( 799954 ) on Saturday April 16, 2005 @06:33AM (#12253753) Homepage
    Not convinced I'd want that style of lighting everywhere around my house as it stands it'd be like living in a large supermarket.

    I'd have to invest in some hardcore lift music to complete the 'still out shopping' effect. And perhaps pay a young relative to scream and be slapped periodically in the middle distance.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 16, 2005 @06:41AM (#12253782)
    "On a very hot day you might want blue light to cool it down a bit."

    And if street noise is distracting you, a green LED will quiet that right down.
    • Nope, marketing have a point here. The colour of light does affect your mood, why do you think hospitals concentrate on the cleanest light they can for operating theatres and general wards, whereas maternity wards have warmer lighting?

      Starbucks use warm lighting because it makes you want to stay there, especially if it's raining outside.
  • Wow, I never noticed that the room light is out, guess I have too many displays and boxes with status LEDs in here or something.
  • by jdonnis ( 115371 ) on Saturday April 16, 2005 @06:46AM (#12253801)
    I think one of the main issues with LED lights is the incompatibility with existing lamps.

    Sure you buy new lamps every once in a while, but a real breakthrough will come when you can get LED 'bulbs' that fit in a normal 220/110V socket on a normal lamp.

    The same thing happened with those energy-saving bulbs, it seems they only really took off (at least here in Denmark where electricity is expensive) when they became available in versions that looked like normal bulbs and fit most lamps.

    Another example is the wire spot halogen lights, once they became available in 220/110V versions they took off. Nobody seemed to want those bulky 220->12V transformers around.
    • You will see them in standard (what is it, 1 1/2"?) socket bulbs within the next year or so. That won't mean they will be cheap. In all likelyhood the screw in portion will be a transformer that will drop the voltage to a level that is suitable for the LED array.

      Possibly an array will be set up so that rows are in series, and columns are parallel. Though you may see flicker with that method as well.

      Most of the 'fix' in both the florescent bulb and the hallogen bulb solutions came about from similar system
    • by zakezuke ( 229119 ) on Saturday April 16, 2005 @07:33AM (#12253940)
      Sure you buy new lamps every once in a while, but a real breakthrough will come when you can get LED 'bulbs' that fit in a normal 220/110V socket on a normal lamp.

      They've been out for some time.

      http://w ww.ccrane.com/120-volt-led-light-bulb.aspx

      The technique is simple. Use a rectifier to convert AC to DC, and use enough LEDs in series and glue them all together. Sure if one LED burns out you loose a whole series, but don't expect that for a few years.

      Whether you'd actually want to own one is a different story.
  • I don't know much about the tech side of LEDs. I know they're pretty. So this might be a stupid question.

    Why haven't I ever seen two of the little light junctiony dealies inside one little plastic bubble? Whenever they make products like those LED flashlights that they want to be brighter, they add more individual LEDs, but is there a technical reason why you can't just make the little plastic bubble bigger and put 50 of the light sources inside it to save space? Or is it a manufacturing cost issue?
    • but is there a technical reason why you can't just make the little plastic bubble bigger

      Because all it would do is make the LED focus differently possibly making it dimmer. The "bulb" doesn't do much but protect the pins inside, protect the layer of aluminum-gallium-arsenide between the pins and focus the light produced. There are colored LEDs that have clear casings even. Here [howstuffworks.com]'s a good explanation.

      By the way, that wasn't off-topic at all.

    • There already are white LEDs available with more than one die (little light junctiony dealies) per package (little plastic bubble). There are multiple die white LEDs and RGB LEDs that have red, green, and blue dies in one package. A common type of LED has a green die and a red die in one package with the dies connected in opposite polarity; DC in one direction makes red light, DC in the other direction makes green light, AC makes yellow light.

      We are VERY early in the development of using LEDs for illumin

  • you can really say a beowulf cluster of leds :)
  • The problem is theft.

    Over their long lifetime, even existing LED lights are much cheaper than incandescents (factoring in electricty and replacement costs). So they should be attractive to places like hotels, shops and so on.

    One of the most serious problems is that the high intial cost makes the LED a very attractive target for thieves. Nobody's going to bother stealing incadescent light bulbs from, say, a hotel room - they're bulky, delicate and almost worthless. LEDs on the other hand, are compact, easi
  • by maino82 ( 851720 ) on Saturday April 16, 2005 @06:51AM (#12253820)
    I'm a lighting and electrical systems design student and a lot of talk has been going on about LEDs these past few years. One thing people seem really excited about is the color mixing capabilities. While it may be true that a single white LED might not provide the kind of white you want, you can mix RGB to any color temperature of white you want (from a warmer incandescent color to the cooler color of the sun). I went to Lightfair a few years ago and saw an LED parking lot light that had an array of various color LEDs that mixed to white on the workplane, and an added bonus was that because there were so many colors in the array, the color rending was amazing.

    Unfortunately, like the article says, the first cost is still prohibitive in a lot of cases, although the savings in energy would seem to make it worthwhile. LEDs also tend to get very, very hot in large quantities if they're used for a long period of time, so air circulation is a common problem as well.

    Hopefully some of you computer engineers and programers can come up with a cheap way to produce and control LED arrays so I can start using them in practice! Building owners would be extremely happy if power consumption in buildings would go down significantly and if they had the ability to control the color and brightness (they are easily and cheaply dimmable, unlike flourescents) of any room individually.

  • Hold On Now (Score:5, Funny)

    by Rie Beam ( 632299 ) on Saturday April 16, 2005 @06:55AM (#12253835) Journal
    This article contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things (and light sources). This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Current white LEDs will last up to 50,000 hours, about 50 times as long as a 60-watt bulb. That's almost six years if they're on constantly.

    Erm. Weren't LEDs supposed to have (virtually) unlimited lifetime?
  • ...when you use them to be seen directly be the human eye, like for displays, or car brake lights. As soon as you use them to "light something", like a room, a book with a reading light, or a film set, their property of irregular spectrum makes them only second choice, because the LED light changes the colors in ways ranging from subtle to irritating. Give me flat-spectrum LEDs and I'll use them any day!
  • by eMago ( 267564 ) on Saturday April 16, 2005 @07:00AM (#12253849) Homepage
    A big advantage of LEDs over standard lightbulbs is, that they are quickly switchable without reducing lifetime that much. For lightbulbs you need expensive flashlights, but for LEDs a standard 5mm High Power LED - or if you want more power, a flux - can be used for fast switching applications.
    Additionally you can use many LEDs together without much effort to create nice structures and designes in different colors - as mentioned in the article.

    Since I discovered not so long ago, that the blue and white LEDs of today with e.g. 8000 and 20000mcd are another dimension compared to the LEDs I used in my electonic experimenting set as a child, I hacked together an XMMS-Plugin serial lightshow with a uC-backend and use some blue and red high-power LEDs to illuminate some parts of the room. With standard lights that fast-switching beat-detection would not be possible in such a cheap way.

    Of course if you really want to illuminate the room in a standard, really bright manner, you need even more powerful and expensive LEDs, however it is a good start and I expect my main, ordinary illumination to be "lightshow compatible" in 10 years ,-).
  • Hrm... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Duncan3 ( 10537 ) on Saturday April 16, 2005 @07:00AM (#12253851) Homepage
    So which way am I better off? Just using lower wattage "classic" lightbulbs, or with dozens of 120V AC->5V DC converters wasting energy everywhere.

    The adapter for my iBook puts out more heat then the iBook. More of the heat from my AMD64 is from the power supply vs. the CPU and Gfx.

    Almost nothing I own needs over 12V anymore. When will I be able to just have one nice 120->12V spaceheater and run everything else in the room off 12V?
    • So which way am I better off? Just using lower wattage "classic" lightbulbs, or with dozens of 120V AC->5V DC converters wasting energy everywhere.

      I would *think* that one would use a rectifier and hookup enough LEDs in series to accomidate 120V, or 240v for that matter.
    • Actually, one would think that the power converter would be built in to:
      • the LED "bulb" if one were to use legacy lamps
      • the lamp made for LEDs

      Another point: With DC, there are issues with high power devices and circuits involving heat and current carrying capacity of wiring.

      As for a single 120VAC - 12VDC converter for a room, you can purchase high amp converters and do just that. Granted, it may not be cheap and there will be a large number of devices that use other than 12VDC which will still require e

    • Re:Hrm... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Matthias Wiesmann ( 221411 ) on Saturday April 16, 2005 @07:59AM (#12254025) Homepage Journal
      Quite a few years ago, they built a 'ecological house' in Switzerland (sorry I can't seem to be able to find a link). One of the interesting aspects of this house was that it had twin electrical wiring, one 220V AC circuit and one one 12V DC circuit. The 12V circuit was powered by batteries and solar panels, while the 220V circuit was powered by the grid. The point was that converting from 220V to 12 is not very efficient, and solar panels are better suited for producing 12 V DC.

      At that time, LED based illumination was not possible. Now if light can be produced efficiently from 12V the list of devices that really need 220V is not that large: mostly cleaning machines and kitchen appliances. Of course rewiring houses is the real problem...
  • by Andy Mitchell ( 780458 ) on Saturday April 16, 2005 @07:02AM (#12253857) Homepage
    The article says:

    They haven't been used as sources of illumination because they, for a long time, could not produce white light -- only red, green and yellow. Nichia Chemical of Japan changed that in 1993 when it started producing blue LEDs, which combined with red and green produce white light, opening up a whole new field for the technology.

    This is certainly one way to produce a white LED but it is not the common method today. Most white LEDs use a phosphor to convert a blue or ultraviolet LED into a white one. A quick google found the following page that talks about this in more detail:

    http://www.marktechopto.com/engineering/white.cfm [marktechopto.com]

    I would speculate that for normal home lighting using a phosphor will give better results as:

    • Using separate red, green, and blue emitters increases complexity. Different colour LEDs are often made using different semiconductors.
    • Using 3 separate LEDs will produce a light that looks white, however as LEDs only produce a very narrow range of frequencies (determined by the band gap as I recall) this may cause some colours to look a bit off. Fluorescent lighting also works by converting UV to visible light and can produce an excellent reproduction of daylight. Providing of course you buy the right tube that uses the approprite magic combination of phosphors.
  • Drag Racing (Score:4, Informative)

    by Skraut ( 545247 ) on Saturday April 16, 2005 @07:06AM (#12253873) Journal
    The drag racing industry has moved from incadecant to LED lights for the starting "Christmas Tree"
    • The drag racing industry has moved from incadecant to LED lights for the starting "Christmas Tree"

      Note to self... don't take interior design tips from people who spend good money putting off center stripes on cars.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The feature of LEDs likely to propel them into homes is aesthetic, not practical.

    I want to have Natalie Portman propeled into my home. She is aesthetic pleasing, but this would not be practical.
  • Been there... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Arrepiadd ( 688829 )

    A few years ago (actually, a lot) when fluorescent lamps were invented someone said that regular lamps would be dead in 10 years. Fluorescent lamps where invented still in 19th century, so I guess it didn't come true.

    I'd hope it gets through this time, but people still by those energy consuming lamps, so I'll just wait and see...

  • by theonetruekeebler ( 60888 ) on Saturday April 16, 2005 @07:55AM (#12254016) Homepage Journal
    What are we going to do for lightbulb jokes? LEDs just don't work here:

    Q: "How many Californians does it take to resolder an LED?"
    A: "Californians don't resolder in LEDs. They resolder in hot tubs."

    One can only pray for a GFI failure.

    Q: "How many trailer trash rednecks does it take to resolder an LED?"
    A: "They still use lightbulbs!"

    Okay, that one's still okay.

  • by MtViewGuy ( 197597 ) on Saturday April 16, 2005 @10:08AM (#12254562)
    I think when LED technologies mature, that's where it will have the most importance.

    Imagine the same color temperature as xenon high-intensity discharge headlamps but with far less hardware and power requirements, not to mention far longer usable life! It could mean lighter automobiles because there will be less need for a high-capacity automotive electrical system and also we eliminate the weight of the xenon HID headlamp electrical hardware in the first place.
  • by DumbSwede ( 521261 ) <slashdotbin@hotmail.com> on Saturday April 16, 2005 @10:08AM (#12254563) Homepage Journal
    Conventional incandescent bulbs are cheap and incandescent bulb factories churn out billions per year. They won't disappear overnight, but disappear they will eventually when we reach some tipping point in price. Trouble is all those old factories will continue to churn out bulbs until the profit margin is some fraction of a cent above raw material price. You can get 4 conventional bulbs for 99 cents today when they are on sale, so I think $5-$10 Dollar will be the magic tipping point for LED bulbs given the energy savings and lifetime for home use and $20-$40 for commercial use. When this happens incandescent will probably drop to 10 or 15 cents a pop for a while, basically burning off inventory at cost. Once LEDs are 60-80 percent of indoor illumination, conventional bulbs will slowly start to climb in price as old bulb factories close their doors leaving fewer suppliers.

    It will be some years before we reach this tipping point in price however as current costs are about $100-$200 a bulb for 65watt equivalent LED bulbs [ledtronics.com]

    10 years after most bulbs are LED conventional bulbs will seem anachronistic and stone age. One of the few things in the last 100 years to just be out and out replaced by a new technology. Granted we have lots of bright shining new things in our modern world, but they general have been added to what we already have or evolved slowly from what came before. The switch to transistors from tubes is about the only other thing that comes to mind where this has happened, and perhaps this should just be seen as one of the last hold outs of filaments in tube to be displaced by solid state. All that is left to go are CRTs and this too will happen relatively soon.

    In need of a similar revolution: Cars that run without gas - this is a hard one, but we are finally starting to make some progress; Energy production from other than Oil, Gas, Coal, and Uranium. Fusion is about the only way to go here, but it isn't doable at any price today. None of the other energy alternatives have a chance of displacing the big 3 fossil fuels or remaining conventional nuclear plants; Getting to Space without conventional rocket technology. Do all these things and we will have finally arrived in the 21 Century.

  • by xxxJonBoyxxx ( 565205 ) on Saturday April 16, 2005 @10:12AM (#12254590)
    I think all the new stoplights in town are LED stoplights. Most of the brakelights on trucks around town are too. Did this story fall through a time-rift from seven years ago?
  • by Fantastic Lad ( 198284 ) on Saturday April 16, 2005 @11:25PM (#12259220)
    We had a three day power outage over the winter, and a few things became apparent.

    Without power, many people seem to turn into hopeless wrecks.

    People burn their entire supply of toxic paraffin candles in about two days, (if they have them), they run out of food, and they start to freeze. If the power had gone out for more than a couple of weeks without emergency help or without a shift in how people arranged their lives, I think we'd have seen some serious Darwinism in effect. --Luckily, when people get motivated, they also tend to be quite resilient; two weeks without power is like getting kicked out of bed. "Okaaay. Fine. I'll go do something about the situation rather than gripe and eat all the easy food."

    But anyway. . ,

    I found myself hurting for a decent lighting solution. With no power, and time to kill, people like to read and they play social games like D&D! Except, without reliable lighting, these things are possible only during the daylight hours, (which in the winter time are in shorter supply, plus if you have your windows covered up with blankets for extra warmth, the lighting situation isn't so good). --And a room filled with paraffin wax smoke gets toxic and trippy in a bad way after about half an hour. Yuck. --Bees wax burns non-toxic and smells really nice, but those kind of candles are usually expensive and in short supply.

    Enter the LED flashlight! After the power out-age I ordered a 'Lightwave 4000'. It runs on 3 D-cells, and you can expect about 900 hours of solid run time. (2000 hours, if you believe the packaging, which I don't.) Still, 900 hours is 37.5 days of solid 'On.' Cut that in half for night time use only, and you're looking at over two months of lighting on 3 batteries. That's 9 batteries to last you all through winter. Not bad!

    Then just toss in a few of those small, $10 Dorcy single-LED lights which run on AAA cells for 200 hours or so. --Keep those in supply, and you're fine. --For a social setting, just set up a Bee's wax candle to throw a little nice color, and you're surviving in style.

    Wrap up in blankets, get an alcohol burner for teas and soups, or better, a wood stove, and you're laughing. Life is fun when you're prepared!


Statistics are no substitute for judgement. -- Henry Clay