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See that little red (or blue or green) light on the corner of your computer monitor or cell phone? That’s a light-emitting diode, or LED. They are found in almost every electronic appliance manufactured today, from watches and televisions to stoves and refrigerators.
They last forever and are remarkably energy efficient, but have run into problems when trying to expand into general lighting applications currently dominated by incandescent, halogen, and compact fluorescent light bulbs. Until now, LEDs have had problems generating enough light to illuminate a room while keeping heat output to acceptable levels. The key word there is ‘had.’
New lights from Cree and Soraa are showing a lot of promise in the ability to last for years and save on electricity bills. Researchers at Georgia Tech recently discovered a way to increase LED energy efficiency by 425 percent. Though at this time LEDs are significantly pricier than more established lighting, retail costs should be coming down soon as manufacturing techniques improve and better light dispersal methods are developed.
In the United States – the second largest consumer of electricity in the world – lighting accounts for a full 15.5 percent of all electricity usage. That’s 570 billion kilowatt-hours. Power-saving LED light sources are poised to keep millions of dollars in our collective wallets in near future. And with advances like OLEDs (organic LEDs) on the horizon, light-emitting diodes will continue to light up our lives for decades to come.
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