Imagine the ability to change the color of your car or the walls of your house as easily as you might change the background of your Facebook page. Another click of a button and your Facebook page could go on display to fellow drivers stuck in traffic (So long, bumper stickers). LEDs might be able to soon bring such ideas to fruition.
The discovery of electroluminescence—the phenomenon of charged electrons releasing photon, which powers LED—dates all the way back to 1907 at Marconi Labs. In correspondence to the energy band gap, the semiconductor was observed to emit light of different colors depending on the voltage of the current applied. Historians name Oleg Losev, a Russian inventor, as the first to develop what we call an LED today, but widespread commercial use was limited in 1927. Texas Instruments would achieve a broader audience for the LED when they beat out General Electric, RCA and IBM to file a patent for it in 1962. This led to the release of the commercial model SNX-100, primarily intended for testing electronics but other uses would soon present themselves in other electronic devices, from televisions and digital clocks to common kitchen appliances. By the end of the twentieth century LEDs could be found in places and used in ways unimaginable to the pioneers of the technology nearly a century before.
Now commonplace in almost every industry, Commercial LED light fixtures offer flexibility in size and mood surpasses the capabilities of traditional incandescent bulbs and tubes. One example of the LED's adaptability is in mimicking candlelight, increasing safety while accurately preserving the mood. Homeowners also value the reduction in energy costs which is provided by the added control over LED lights. Green-minded homeowners and businesses both have embraced LED light fixtures for their longevity and reduced radiation as heat, making for a smaller carbon footprint. Size has little effect on the heat or quality of light produced and LEDs can be made as small as two millimeters. As a result of these benefits, one can find LEDs almost everywhere today, in video displays, electronic billboards, aviation and marine lighting, vehicle lighting, optical communication, optical mice, barcode scanners, traffic signals, and scoreboards.
The LED guarantees to offer unique and fantastic possibilities in the years ahead. For instance, scientists are currently developing an LED system dubbed FOLED (flexible organic light-emitting diode) which applies the signal from LEDs to be applied to thin (100 nm) flexible plastic films that can carry a signal even when bent. FOLEDs would enable mobile devices and video displays to be shown on a curved surface and folded up when not in use. Other groundbreaking LED research is happening in labs by companies like Philips whose Lumalive products seek to seamlessly integrate light-emitting diodes into textiles, allowing for wearable LEDs and larger decorative room treatments. The ability of an LED to cycle on and off millions of times per second makes it quite suitable for high data bandwidth in optical communication ("LiFi") and has high potential for continued use in the years to come. A sign of how useful LEDs have become, NASA has plans in the future to use the technology for safe mood regulators and light sources for plant growth, making gardens aboard space stations more productive and self-sufficient.
Of course, the more fantastic benefits of LED light are not only confined to the future, but exist in the present as well. 3M is just one of the present day developers of LEDs, inventing Virtual LED, using a single LED to cover a large space for their Lightfall line of products. The future's rollable LED can be seen in the present's lighting fixture line by Osram which can be bent to wrap around exteriors or line interior spaces. Laface and Mcgovern Associates constructs a similar product, a flexible LED strip coated with a polycarbonate resin which is said to provide improved clarity and control over the light emitted. Go here to learn more about their services. Whether on your computer or your car or even yourself, LEDs are turning up more and more places and it seems like this will only grow in the future.