While the recently approved energy bill -- which included the federal phase out plans appropriately positions age old filament bulbs as a way of the past and compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) as the way to the future, the reality is that in 10 or so years the eventual lighting technology winner will be light emitting diode (LEDs) solutions.
Since their introduction in the early 1960s, LEDs have evolved from simple indicator lights and alphanumeric displays to an exciting new source for general lighting. LEDs differ radically from traditional light sources in that there are no glass bulbs or filaments to break, or electrodes to decay. Instead, LEDs are solid state light sources basically, a chemical chip embedded in a plastic capsule. When the chip is energized by applying a voltage, it emits visible light, the color depending on the chip's chemical composition. The light can then be focused, routed, or scattered using lenses, waveguides or diffusers.
Due to the tremendous pace of technical developments, LED efficacy now rivals or surpasses that of standard incandescent lamps as well as the newly minted CFLs. For example, white LEDs are now producing more than 20 lumens per watt, compared to 8 - 15 lumens per watt for incandescent lamps. White LEDs are actually blue LEDs with a phosphor coating, which converts a portion of the blue light to yellow the combination resulting in white light.
OSRAM SYLVANIA (OSI), the lighting division of engineering conglomerate Siemens AG, is integrating LEDs in a number of unique modular systems, including flexible and linear modules, marker lights, and powerful "effect" modules with focusing lenses. Flexible and linear LED modules can provide uniform backlighting for signs and contour lighting for architecture, while occupying a fraction of the space and consuming a fraction of the energy required by traditional light sources. Similarly, low-profile marker lights can highlight steps or edges, guiding or alerting users to hazards in areas like auditoriums, stairways and subway platforms. Effect lights combine an array of ten LEDs with individual lenses in a single compact module, focusing the combined light output into an intense and narrow beam, which can provide colorful accent lighting for architectural features.
Given the current pace of development, even general room lighting with LEDs is not a distant consideration. Indeed, the unique characteristics of LEDs invite designers, consumers and organizations alike to "think beyond the bulb," and ponder a more seamless integration of lighting and building materials.
Enter your city or zip code to get your local temperature and air quality and find local green food and recycling resources near you.