7 Weird and Wonderful Uses For LED Lighting Technology

It’s amazing to think that just a few years ago, many people thought of LEDs as nothing more than the tiny red lights in our laser pointers but my, how the times have changed! With more and more people realizing the energy-efficiency benefits of LED lighting, it seems that everything from headlights to TVs to even clothing and wallpaper are now being lit up by the versatile lighting technology.

Unlike incandescent, LEDs are super-compact, don’t emit heat and use just a fraction of the energy – plus their flexible, plastic design allows them to be used in a wonderful variety of innovative ways that other types of lighting just can’t touch. We’ve seen so many weird and wonderful uses for LED lighting lately that we decided to put together a roundup of our favorite examples for your viewing pleasure. Click through our gallery to see some of the quirkiest, most interesting uses for LEDs that we’ve ever seen.

led-virtual-skyLED lights are 8 times more energy-efficient than traditional incandescent bulbs, but did you know that LED technology can make us happier and more productive too? That’s what researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering IAO found when they developed their LED virtual sky panels. Designed to replace ceiling panels in offices, the light-laced modules mimic the sky, giving workers the sense that they are in an open wide field. Much more pleasant than being under harsh, flickering fluorescents, wouldn’t you say? And since studies show that natural daylighting improves productivity upwards of 15%, these LED panels could lead to more work getting done as well.
solar-car-sunroofWe all know how hot and steamy a car’s interior can get when it’s super sunny. Why not put some of the sun’s rays to work for you? That’s the idea behind this new solar-powered LED car sunroof from Philips. Drivers can flip a switch to choose between a normal, clear sunroof or a solar-powered light that illuminates the car’s interior. There is also a wide variety of other LED lights for cars including turn signals and break lights.
bionic-led-contact-lensYour current contact lenses may help with your vision but do they let you read your emails right on your retinas? Developed by Aalto University in Finland, this amazing “bionic” contact lens is a prototype that, in the future, could enable us to view an augmented reality. The lens works by transmitting information to a transparent sapphire chip that contains a single micro-LED, which allows the wearer to “see” what they might on their computer screen without the need for anything but their eyes and these contacts.
You might get some funny looks if you tried to tape a bunch of incandescent bulbs to your car or under your cabinets, but you can achieve the same effect in a much more elegant way by using these handy LED strips. Available in a dazzling array of colors, they’re super lightweight and are extremely versatile. The LEDs come on a roll and can even be cut to size so projects that you would have needed to hire a lighting specialist or contractor for in the past can now be done easily and for much cheaper. They’re also waterproof so they can easily be used outdoors.
led-wallpaperChanging the color of your walls is currently a chore, but in the future, it might just take the flip of a switch. Developed by Philips, this LED wallpaper could make painting your walls a thing of the past. Emitting a soothing glow, the luminous wall panels can be configured in a myriad of combinations of color.
sunshine-bottleAnyone who remembers catching fireflies in a jar as a child and marveling at their glow can appreciate Consol’s delightful Sunshine in a Bottle lamp. Sold in South Africa, where sunlight is abundant, the glass bottle can be left out all day to collect the sun’s rays via a solar panel in the lid, and can then illuminate the night using a little LED. In addition to being a nostalgic object, this light provides an alternative for people without access to an electrical grid, who would have previously had to use dangerous kerosene to light their lamps at night.
light-up-eyelashesWhile they border on the bizarre, these crazy LED-laced eyelashes have been getting a lot of attention as an innovative way to mingle LED technology and beauty. Designed by Soomi Park, the lit-up lashes are meant to make the eyes appear larger and even contain a mechanism that allows them to be turned on and off by tilting your head. We’re not sure if we’d exactly call these attractive but we’re sure they garner a lot of attention for the wearer.

LED Advantages

The interiorled of a LED is actually quite simple, which is one of the reasons this technology is so versatile.

While all diodes release light, most don’t do it very effectively. In an ordinary diode, the semiconductor material itself ends up absorbing a lot of the light

energy. LEDs are specially constructed to release a large number of photons outward. Additionally, they are housed in a plastic bulb that concentrates the light in a particular direction. As you can see in the diagram, most of the light from the diode bounces off the sides of the bulb, traveling on through the rounded end.

LEDs have several advantages over conventional incandescent lamps. For one thing, they don’t have a filament that will burn out, so they last much longer. Additionally, their small plastic bulb makes them a lot more durable. They also fit more easily into modern electronic circuits.

But the main advantage is efficiency. In conventional incandescent bulbs, the light-production process involves generating a lot of heat (the filament must be warmed). This is completely wasted energy, unless you’re using the lamp as a heater, because a huge portion of the available electricity isn’t going toward producing visible light. LEDs generate very little heat, relatively speaking. A much higher percentage of the electrical power is going directly to generating light, which cuts down on the electricity demands considerably.

Per-watt, LEDs output more lumens of light than regular incandescent bulbs. Light emitting diodes have a higher luminous efficacy (how efficiently electricity is converted to visible light) than incandescents — for example, Sewell’s EvoLux LED bulb produces 76.9 lumens per watt compared to an incandescent bulb’s 17 lm/W [source: Sewell]. And they last: LEDs can have lifetimes of 50,000 hours or more [source: Design Recycle Inc].

Up until recently, LEDs were too expensive to use for most lighting applications because they’re built around advanced semiconductor material. The price of semiconductor devices has plummeted since the year 2000, however, making LEDs a more cost-effective lighting option for a wide range of situations. While they may be more expensive than incandescent lights up front, their lower cost in the long run can make them a better buy. Several companies have begun selling LED light bulbs designed to compete with incandescent and compact fluorescents that promise to deliver long lives of bright light and amazing energy efficiency.

Over the next couple of pages we’ll take a look at the future of LEDs in our homes. One day they may be plugged into our light bulb sockets, lighting up our digital readouts and illuminating the millions of pixels that make up our high-definition televisions.