During the last five years, LED (light emitting diode) lights have become more and more popular, as well as more affordable. While the technology that was first discovered in the early 1900s has already been used for several decades in commercial applications such as billboards, traffic lights, and exit signs, it has now made its way into the home in a whole lot more than just the display on your electric alarm clock.
The Many Uses and Types of LED Lights
Also referred to as solid-state lighting, LEDs use several types of inorganic semiconductor materials to create light that is visible to the eye. These materials, which vary depending on the color needed, are encased in a highly durable plastic, allowing the lights to be used in many different practical applications in everything from a simple calculator to the most advanced of electronics.
Some of the other many items utilizing LED technology include indicator lights on automobiles, motorcycles, bicycles, and boats, traffic lights, exit signs, strips of emergency landing lights at airports, as well as in lanterns and flashlights. Places like Las Vegas would look totally different, not to mention mostly dark, without the use of light emitting diodes. Even some museums are now turning to LED lights as the amount of ultraviolet (UV) rays that are emitted in comparison to the heat given off by other types of lighting is negligible and keeps the valuable artwork and delicate artifacts safe from heat damage.
Extremely useful applications in the world of medicine, including pulse oximeters that measure the amount of oxygen saturation within the blood, also use LED lights in their displays, as well as in a process for sterilizing water and in a special type of phototherapy used for treating acne. Computers and wireless, optical mice also use light emitting diodes, along with a host of sporting good equipment, toys, flashlights, cell phones, remote controls, and video games.
For the sheer purpose of lighting, LEDs are also used in light bulbs, grow lights for gardening, street lights, architectural lights, stage lighting, large video displays, and emergency lights for police cars, fire trucks, and ambulances.
As technology continues to advance, it’s expected that LED lights will soon be used all over the inside and the outside of the home, giving people the option of changing both the color and intensity of their lighting with the flip of a switch, creating a variety of special effects and moods.
Basically, there are three different types of LED lights and they include alphanumeric, illumination, and miniature. Each of these types also come in a variety of shapes and sizes as the plastic that holds the diodes is able to shaped into many different forms. Clusters of LEDs can be placed into straight lines, as they are in clocks or signs, or in an array of geometric patterns, both uniform and irregular.
Some of the many advantages of LED lights include:
– Most all LED lights will gradually dim over time, as opposed to abruptly “burning out” the way other light bulbs do. The average lifespan of most types of LED lights is an astounding 35,000 to 50,000 hours of use, as opposed to an average of one to two thousand hours of light from incandescent bulbs and 30,000 for fluorescent tube lighting.
– There is no mercury or hazardous materials within LED lights, enabling them to be discarded right along with the regular garbage instead of needing to be disposed of carefully the way fluorescent bulbs must be.
– Since the casing used to house the materials to create light emitting diodes is made of an extremely durable epoxy based plastic, they’re virtually indestructible and are able to withstand use in harsh outdoor conditions as well.
Some of the known disadvantages of LED lights include:
– Light emitting diodes are definitely more expensive, at least initially, on a price per lumen basis in comparison to traditional forms of lighting.
– The overall performance of light emitting diodes will mostly depend on the ambient temperature of the environment, or the room temperature. Adequately heat-sinking the diodes is needed if the application will be in regular contact with high temperatures.
– LEDs aren’t capable of producing collimated beams of light, which are light rays that are parallel with one another such as those used in lasers, without the addition of a collimation lens.