Bright Ideas

What is an LED?

Light emitting diodes (LEDs) are electronic components that produce light without heat or the use of high voltages.

History of the LED

The first known report of a light-emitting solid-state diode was made in 1907 by the British experimenter H. J. Round. However, no practical use was made of the discovery for several decades.

The first LEDs became commercially available in the 1970s, and were almost all red. They were commonly used as replacements for incandescent indicators, and in seven-segment displays, first in expensive equipment such as laboratory and electronics test equipment, then later in such appliances as TVs, radios, telephones, calculators, and even watches. These red LEDs were bright enough only for use as indicators, as the light output was not enough to illuminate an area. Later, other colors became widely available and also appeared in appliances and equipment. As the LED chemistry became more advanced, the light output was increased, and LEDs became bright enough to be used for illumination.

Advantages of using LEDs

  • LEDs produce more light per watt than do incandescent bulbs; this is useful in battery powered or energy-saving devices.
  • LEDs can emit light of an intended color without the use of color filters that traditional lighting methods require. This is more efficient and can lower initial costs.
  • The solid package of an LED can be designed to focus its light. Incandescent and fluorescent sources often require an external reflector to collect light and direct it in a usable manner.
  • When used in applications where dimming is required, LEDs do not change their color tint as the current passing through them is lowered, unlike incandescent lamps, which turn yellow.
  • LEDs are ideal for use in applications that are subject to frequent on-off cycling, unlike fluorescent lamps that burn out more quickly when cycled frequently.
  • LEDs, being solid state components, are difficult to damage with external shock. Fluorescent and incandescent bulbs are easily broken if dropped on the ground.
  • LEDs have an extremely long life span. One manufacturer has calculated the ETTF (Estimated Time To Failure) for their LED’s to be between 100,000 and 1,000,000 hours [7]. Fluorescent tubes typically are rated at about 10,000 hours, and incandescent light bulbs at 1,000-2,000 hours.
  • LEDs mostly fail by dimming over time, rather than the abrupt burn-out of incandescent bulbs.
  • LEDs light up very quickly. A typical red indicator LED will achieve full brightness in microseconds; LEDs used in communications devices can have even faster response times.
  • LEDs can be very small and are easily populated onto printed circuit boards.
  • LED requires much less power to output the same amount of light as a similar incandescent bulb.
  • An LED light bulb can last you up to 60,000 hours. That averages out to 12 hours of light per day for 12 years.
  • LED light bulbs are so energy efficient that, depending on how often you have them on, they'll actually pay for themselves in just over a year.
  • The best way to conserve energy is to use less of it. LED light bulbs are directional - which means that they only put the light where you aim it or where you need it. Incandescent bulbs, on the other hand, just sit there and throw their glow all over the place - wasting electricity and generating heat.
  • LED light bulbs run cool, so they're safer to use than fragile, burning hot halogen and incandescent bulbs.
  • LEDs turn on instantly - which has been a big benefit in car brake lights and is also a welcome feature when testing lights in a dark basement.
  • LEDs do not use mercury like CFLs - so disposal concerns aren't the same.

List of LED applications

  • Modules can be used in Cove lighting, decks, windows and Under Bar lighting
  • Used in progressive signs like in Casinos over a bank of Slot Machines in a ‘chase sequence’
  • Use an LED light bulb in a task or reading light, and you'll have a bright, white light to work by. LEDs not only produce light more efficiently, they have a tiny mirror that reflects light in one direction. A directed light means less wasted light.
  • LED light bulbs cost just pennies a day to run, so they are perfect for those always-on or accidentally-left-on lights like on porches.
  • Architectural lighting
  • Status indicators on all sorts of equipment
  • Traffic lights and signals
  • Exit signs
  • Motorcycle and Bicycle lights
  • Toys and recreational sporting goods, such as the Flashflight
  • Railroad crossing signals
  • Continuity indicators
  • Flashlights. Some models that do not even use batteries are of this type.
  • Light bars on emergency vehicles.
  • Elevator Push Button Lighting


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