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Saturday, 26 March 2011

The future of lighting

What would you say to an idea of illumination which is easy to install, lasts much more, is economically viable, and uses a technology which is completely different from the conventional ways of generating light?

This might surprise you, but heat is not a by-product of light!  That’s something that should particularly appeal to those who spend a fair bit on air-conditioning in their attempts to kill the heat generated by the red-hot filaments of their monster-sized lamps.

The lights of the future that we are taking about are light-emitting diodes or LEDs. The reason why LEDs don’t sound (they are not talking lights, we are!) like our conventional lights is because unlike an incandescent bulb where current causes a filament to heat up and emit light, LEDs produce light when current passes through a semi-conductor chip.

An LED is basically a small semi-conductor chip, often less than one millimetre square, located in a small bulb. When voltage is applied to the semi-conductor, it causes electrons to flow in the semi-conductor – a process that produces the light without the heat that conventional incandescent lamps generate.

This tiny arrangement of a semiconductor chip with wires coming off it is supported by a lead frame. This package, neatly encapsulated in an epoxy or clear silicon, is a miniature light bulb.

There’s usually a little dome or lens of some sort as part of the package, but the whole thing is solid. That’s where the term solid-state lighting comes from.

Potent it may be, but we still need some more of these tiny pieces clustered together for a bright-enough light. The intensity and even the colour of the light can be changed. LEDs are small and sturdy and can be housed in flexible tiles, making it very easy to rearrange.      

This arrangement is the light source that you get in the market. It could anything: a table lamp that lasts you a lifetime, a mood-lighting arrangement sans mood swings, a downright cool downlight or a floodlight that can weather any storm! 

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