The Advent of LED Technology

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We all know about the rapid advances in just about every type of technology taking place right now.  Every day, we use devices and processes that did not exist just a few years ago.  Many of us are familiar with Moore’s law, one of the basic principles of the computer industry that says, basically, that the technology of available computer power that can be purchased by an individual will double every 12 to 18 months.

The relatively new technology of LED lighting has a similar law, called Haitz’s law, after Roland Haitz, one of its pioneers.  Introduced in the year 2000, Haitz’s law says, in a nutshell, that every 10 years the cost per lumen of light energy that can be produced by an LED will fall by a factor of 10, but the amount of light that can be produced will rise by a factor of 20.

The technology at the basis of the LED, a property called electroluminescence was first discovered by in a laboratory in England by H.J. Round, who was working for radio pioneer Gugliemo Marconi.  It wasn’t until 1962 that Nick Holynak, the man consider the father of the modern LED, was able to develop a practical, working unit. The cost, however, was very high, with each single LED costing hundreds of dollars.

In 1968, the Monsanto Corporation became the first company to mass produce the technology, and they became commonplace as indicators on electronic equipment and in 7-segment displays (remember the little red number 8s?) on calculators and adding machines.  Following Haitz’s law, light output for a given amount of electricity has doubled every three years or so.  In 2010, LED technology surpassed 100 lumens/watt, and it’s expected that 200 lumens/watt will be attainable before 2020.

The tiny little LED that served as a red light on the front of televisions and stereos has grown, spurred by the invention of high-powered white emitters, into a practical and cost effective way to produce lighting that can illuminate small and large spaces, much more economically, safely, and with more control than the existing technology of the Incandescent light bulb, and with fewer of the drawbacks associated with other technologies like Fluorescent lights.

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