Inventors of LED light win physics Nobel
The three scientists responsible for allowing governments to ban most incandescent light bulbs by inventing the LED have won the Nobel Prize in physics.
An American and two Japanese scientists won the 2014 Nobel Prize for Physics on Tuesday for inventing a new energy-efficient and environment-friendly light source, leading to the creation of modern LED light bulbs.
Isamu Akasaki and Hiroshi Amano of Japan and Japanese-born U.S. citizen Shuji Nakamura won the prize for developing the blue light-emitting diode (LED) -- the missing piece that now allows manufacturers to produce white-light lamps.
The arrival of such lamps is changing the way homes and workplaces are lit, offering a longer-lasting and more efficient alternative to the incandescent bulbs pioneered by Joseph Swan and Thomas Edison at the end of the 19th century.
"Red and green LEDs have been around for a long time but blue was really missing. Thanks to the blue LED we now can get white light sources which have very high energy efficiency and very long lifetime," Per Delsing, a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, told a news conference.
The award is a notable example of a practical discovery winning the prize -- in contrast to last year, when the physics prize went to scientists who predicted the existence of the Higgs boson particle that explains how elementary matter attained the mass to form stars and planets.
"Incandescent light bulbs lit the 20th century; the 21st century will be lit by LED lamps," the academy said in a statement.
Frances Saunders, president of Britain's Institute of Physics, said the shift offered the potential for huge energy savings.
"With 20 percent of the world’s electricity used for lighting, it’s been calculated that optimal use of LED lighting could reduce this to 4 percent. Akasaki, Amano and Nakamura’s research has made this possible and this prize recognizes this contribution," she said.
I suppose congratulations are in order, but I'm not celebrating much. The light given off by blue LED's is weaker than your standard bulb and it's toxicity is well known:
Ogunseitan and other UC-Irvine researchers tested several types of LEDs, including those used as Christmas lights, traffic lights, car headlights and brake lights. What did they find? Some of the worst offenders were low-intensity red LEDs, which were found to contain up to eight times the amount of lead, a known neurotoxin, allowed by California state law and which, according to researchers, “exhibit significant cancer and noncancer potentials due to the high content of arsenic and lead.” Meanwhile, white LEDs contain the least lead, but still harbor large amounts of nickel, another heavy metal that causes allergic reactions in as many as one in five of us upon exposure. And the copper found in some LEDs can pose an environmental threat if it accumulates in rivers and lakes where it can poison aquatic life.
Ogunseitan adds that while breaking open a single LED and breathing in its fumes wouldn’t likely cause cancer, our bodies hardly need more toxic substances floating around, as the combined effects could be a disease trigger. If any LEDs break at home, Ogunseitan recommends sweeping them up while wearing gloves and a mask, and disposing of the debris — and even the broom — as hazardous waste. Furthermore, crews dispatched to clean up car crashes or broken traffic lights (LEDs are used extensively for automotive and traffic lighting) should wear protective clothing and handle material as hazardous waste. LEDs are currently not considered toxic by law and can be disposed of in regular landfills.
The worst that could happen if you broke an incandescent bulb was a piece of glass in your bare foot. Now we have to worry about hazardous waste? Sheesh.
The claim that we'll realize that much in energy savings is unproven. How much do we pay for increased eye strain? Or the increased cost?
As with all things, a choice would have been preferable to an edict from the government.