Dec 25, 2007

LEDs: Light Emitting Diodes

If you look at your car's digital clock, microwave display, laptop computer's indicator lights, or your keyboard's Num Lock/Caps Lock indicator lights, you're seeing LEDs. They never wear out and they don't give out heat. The last bit means that they're turning hardly any of their input electricity into heat. That in turn means huge amounts of electricity is being saved.

If you think about it, they're pretty miraculous compared to incandescent lighting and fluorescent lighting, the two most popular lighting technologies we have today. I've been hearing more and more about LEDs since this past year and it looks like they're going to hit the big time pretty soon. For example, it looks like the developed world is passing regulations to ban incandescent bulbs in a few years.

Currently most LED lights are pretty small. But slowly we'll be seeing LED desk lamps, lightbulbs, laptop display backlights, televisions, and on and on. They're going to be rolled out and just blend in with our everyday technological landscape.

Such an important technology deserves to be well understood simply because it's going to become a huge part of our lives in the future. And, it's a pretty nifty application of simple high school physics. I recently found a good article that explains the whole thing very simply, and reminds us of how LEDs managed to attract our attention.

From the article: `Up until recently, LEDs were too expensive to use for most lighting applications because they're built around advanced semiconductor material. The price of semiconductor devices has plummeted over the past decade, however, making LEDs a more cost-effective lighting option for a wide range of situations. While they may be more expensive than incandescent lights up front, their lower cost in the long run can make them a better buy. In the future, they will play an even bigger role in the world of technology.'

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