June 26, 2009 by  


Getting the LEDs In and Out

By Kate Heyhoe


LEDs are “in” and it’s time to get the word out about their energy-saving profile. Unlike compact fluorescent bulbs, they don’t contain mercury and they’re even more energy efficient. And if you use a MacBook Air (like me), you’re seeing this by the light of an LED screen.


LED stands for light emitting diode, and everything from traffic lights, billboards, automotive running lights, laptop computers and TVs are increasingly beaming with LEDs. So are countries and municipalities, including the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Technology advancements mean consumers will soon be using LEDs even more routinely.

Sapphire, it seems, is the secret behind 90 percent of LEDs, though these sapphires don’t look quite like the gemstone on your finger. One company, Rubicon Technology, provides most of the world’s sapphire substrates used in the LED chips, and recently announced its process for manufacturing the “super boule,” a 400-pound sapphire crystal that can produce large volumes of LEDs. Their improvements in sapphire wafer size, brightness and yield mean LEDs will become more widespread in residential lighting, laptop screens, smart phones, and other applications.

LED Advantages:

  • Low energy consumption – residential LED lighting uses 75% less energy
  • Long life—LED lighting lasts 25 times longer than incandescents
  • No infrared or ultraviolet radiation—excellent for outdoor use because UV light attracts bugs and LEDs don’t
  • Environmentally sound—LEDs contain no mercury and remain cool to the touch
  • Versatile—Fully dimmable (most CFLs are not), with directional light distribution


Laptop and Lighting Facts:

  • According to the U.S. Department of Energy, 22 percent of the electricity used in the U.S. powers lighting. And 9% of a household’s energy costs are related to lighting
  • The typical American home has 40 sockets for light bulbs
  • Notebooks typically require around 65 LED chips. Dell is currently transitioning all laptop LCDs to LED backlights. Apple already uses LED backlights for MacBook Air. Industry analysts predict market penetration will reach 50 percent by 2010.
  • LED television sales are predicted to reach 32 million screens in 2015, up from estimates of 2 million in 2009 and 7 million in 2010, according to Samsung.

So keep LEDs on your radar. They’re coming soon to a screen (or a lamp) near you.



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