We all know the costs of power consumption – ranging from the big bucks poured into paying for office lighting bills to the environmental cost of many traditional power sources, lighting efficiency is creating quite the buzz. There’s some truly innovative solutions to the age old problem of lights – whether it’s by connecting lighting systems to the cloud, or the growth of the LED sector – or in some cases, both – new and exciting technology means that lighting will never be the same again!
Read on for some of the most interesting developments in lighting and LED tech – from new and weird applications through to new systems incorporating greater efficiency, the future is bright!
The Humble Lightbulb
The origins of the lightbulb are – contrary to what a lot of people think – somewhat hazy. Often attributed to Thomas Edison, it’s more likely that a number of inventors somewhat concurrently developed the technology. Nevertheless, it’s Edison who created the most commercially practical model. Incandescent lights are energy guzzlers – producing a lot of heat for a smaller amount of light. This means power is going into heating the filament, rather than purely into lighting your space.
Fluorescents and LEDs advanced the tech, moving towards more sustainable, longer-lasting lighting. Using mercury gas excited by an electric current, fluorescents glow brightly and last for an extended period of time, and are more energy efficient – using less energy for more light – than incandescent lights.
LEDs are another step forward. Using the absolute minimal amount of energy necessary to create bright light with minimal wastage on heat, LEDs are – to date – one of the most efficient ways to light up your home.
LED technology is evolving constantly – here’s three cool ways people are advancing the goal of sustainable, energy friendly LED lighting:
Cloud Lighting Systems
You only need your light on when you really need it on, right? Sounds simple. Switching off lights when they’re not in use is the most obvious way to reduce energy consumption. But, in an office space, or – say – a school or hospital, control over which lights are on when and how bright they are can be an immense power saver.
Imagine connecting all the lights in an office building to a central, digital control panel. Now imagine that control panel could automate dimmers and switches as needed to provide the right amount of lighting at any given time. That’s the system Cree Inc. and Cisco Technology Inc. have been working on! By controlling brightness, the amount of power used in the lights can be controlled at any given time.
LED in Farming
This is a weird one. Vertical farms are a model of “green” agriculture aimed at taking advantage of urban spaces for food production. Much more efficient than traditional agriculture, vertical farms take up less space. In a modern built environment, they also provide a great way of feeding growing populations. This is especially in the case of increasingly or highly urbanised societies (think Japan, urban India). Urban farming increases food security in countries with limited agriculture or stability, and also reduces the amount of fuel needed to transport or import food.
LED lights, thanks to the technology allowing the isolating of particular kinds of light or wavelengths allow for lighting that encourages plant growth without the wastage of other light spectra. IE, less power is needed to provide red- or blue- spectrum lighting which can be used in greenhouse applications!
This is an exciting green development which has huge potential: food security and energy efficiency in agriculture are two challenges facing the world population.
Light Fidelity. Wireless communication using visible light – wait, what? Working as a sort of hyper-modern Morse code, Li-Fi operates by switching currents to LEDs on and off at a very great speed – faster than the human eye can process. They don’t need to be bright enough to be seen in order to transfer information.
Wi-Fi, and phone networks, usually use radio signals. This is both energy inefficient and in areas that have sensitive equipment – from power plants to aircraft cabins and hospitals – potentially dangerous. The interference of radio signals with other equipment has long been one of the drawbacks of portable communications – and who really enjoys switching their phone to flight mode?
Li-Fi eliminates the need for this by relying on a communication that simply doesn’t interfere with other electromagnetic pulses. Plus, it’s about 100x faster than most Wi-Fi systems. If you’re getting about 10 megabytes a second now, and that seems speedy – imagine 10 GIGABYTES a second.
LEDs are the focus of global research and development in a dynamic way that tears away from other technology. Developing at a staggering rate, it’s a new area full of potential for energy efficiency, new communication methods, and – increasingly – usages we haven’t even thought of yet!
Keep your eyes out for these new technologies as they become part of every-day life. Electricians are working around the world on viable solutions to energy sustainability!