technology deliver A bright future for LED

Startbeitrag von shu anna am 20.12.2013 07:03

Swapping out traditional incandescent light bulbs for light-emitting diodes (LEDs) has long been recognized as one of the single biggest energy conservation steps the world can take. And the LED industry continues to work to make that transition easier, especially by making the devices less expensive.

The reason for the interest in LEDs is simple: they are more energy-efficient, as much as 10 times more than traditional incandescent bulbs. With lighting accounting for half of all electricity used by industry, and a quarter of that used by homes, the savings that would result from an LED conversion are dramatic.

Governments all over the world are helping speed up the process by banning incandescent bulbs altogether. The EU started phasing them out in 2009; in the United States, the manufacture of 60-watt incandescent bulbs, the most common, will be prohibited starting next year.

While LED manufacturers have made remarkable advances in recent years, engineers say the technology still has to overcome several fundamental challenges before it becomes the universally accepted system its boosters hope it to be.

The most significant of these is cost, where great progress has already been made. In the U.S., 60-watt LEDs can now be had for as little as ten dollars, a third of the price of bulbs just a few years ago. While significantly more than the one- or two-dollar price tag of incandescent bulbs, LEDs last far longer; up to 50 times as long, by some studies.

IMS Research, the Englewood, Colorado-based market research firm, says that the current annual value of the LED market is now $85 billion, a figure it predicts will grow to $120 billion by 2017, but then shrink back down to $105 billion by 2020. That late-decade market dip, though, does not signify a decline in demand for LEDs, but instead, reflects the fact that their prices will continue to drop and their replacement rates, owing to their longevity, will be much lower than for incandescents.

Among the other goals that LED manufacturers are still looking to accomplish are to eliminate the annoying phenomenon of flicker. While incandescent lights continue to glow evenly as power levels fluctuate, LED lights are much more sensitive to even tiny changes in their electrical supply, something which occurs commonly in household electrical systems. The resulting flicker bothered some early users of LEDs, and companies are working on designing it away.

The industry also wants LED bulbs to have better color temperature when they are dimmed. While LED lights are easily dimmable—unlike compact fluorescent lamps, (CFLs) which have also been in contention to be a replacement for incandescent— they put out a dull, harsh white light at lower wattages. This is quite different than the gentle warm glow that most users want in a room when the lights are dimmed, a problem the industry is trying to rectify.

There’s one other dimming-related goal. Early LEDs required special new dimmer switches, adding to their expense. The ideal for LED manufacturers is to make them compatible with all existing dimmers, and they are making progress towards that goal.

Compact fluorescents never came close to reaching their potential, largely because consumers never took to them; they took too long to reach full brightness, among other complaints. So far, LEDs are escaping the worst of the criticisms leveled at CFLs. They are a bright spot on the global energy picture, one the industry wants to make even brighter.
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