Interview with Mr. LED, Winner of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics: Part 1

LED Light BulbMr. LED: First, I must say, the title of your piece is some­what mis­lead­ing. Although I’d like to claim credit for all the bright white light out there, I must give credit where credit is due. I, the LED, did not win the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics. The award hon­ors the inno­va­tion of three physi­cists, one Amer­i­can, a pro­fes­sor atUC Santa Bar­bara, and two Japan sci­en­tists, who invented the blue-emitting diode in the early 1990s. Blue diodes in com­bi­na­tion with red– and green-emitting diodes have enabled the pro­duc­tion of energy-efficient white LED light.

Lumiere Elec­tric: I stand cor­rected. But it was the prac­ti­cal appli­ca­tion of YOU, your ben­e­fit to human­ity, which con­vinced the Nobel Com­mit­tee, right?

Mr. LED: Yes, it was Alfred Nobel’s mis­sion to have the prize be awarded for work ben­e­fit­ting mankind, some­thing of soci­etal value. To be sure, in 2014 the Nobel Com­mit­tee rec­og­nized the accom­plish­ments of a sci­en­tific break­through that does indeed have far-reaching, prac­ti­cal significance.

Lumiere Elec­tric: Yes, it’s almost rev­o­lu­tion­ary. The blue light-emitting diodes com­ple­ment the red– and green-emitting ones, the blend of which cre­ates white light.

Mr. LED: Yes, that’s right. Seems like a light just went off above your head, n’est-ce pas?

Lumiere Elec­tric: A bright one, I’m hop­ing. But jok­ing aside, on a much grander scale, the impli­ca­tions of LED white light are trans­for­ma­tive for our cul­ture. Like Ein­stein receiv­ing a Nobel Prize in 1922 for his dis­cov­ery of the law of the pho­to­elec­tric effect.Albert Einstein E =MC2

Mr. LED: Ein­stein, I wouldn’t go that far. But yes, I would have to agree with you that the dis­cov­ery of the blue-emitting diode will have dra­matic impli­ca­tions for our planet, espe­cially as a light­ing tech­nol­ogy that can help reduce our depen­dency on fos­sil fuels. But let’s back up a bit. Peo­ple may be curi­ous about the back­story of my life, that is, in con­text of the heavy-hitter of the light­ing game, the incan­des­cent bulb.

Lumiere Elec­tric: Sure, for our read­ers, please put the LED—yourself—into his­tor­i­cal context.

Mr. LED: As you may know, the iconic shape of the incan­des­cent bulb and its tech­nol­ogy remained vir­tu­ally unchanged for more than a century—ever since Edison’s time. Red and green LED light have been around for about 50 years, and with the dis­cov­ery of blue-emitting diode in the early 1990s the LED became the light­ing tech­nol­ogy of choice in hos­pi­tals, air­ports, edu­ca­tional facil­i­ties, road­ways, and more.

But for res­i­den­tial use the incan­des­cent has always reigned supreme. Recently, how­ever, the rev­o­lu­tion­ary incan­des­cent has gone the way of other once-great inven­tions. And theLED, which on just about every level is a supe­rior tech­nol­ogy, is fast becom­ing the light­ing choice in Amer­i­can house­holds. The rest of the world started fig­ur­ing this out some time ago. The world-wide phase out of incan­des­cent bulbs started in 2005.

Incandescent Light BulbLumiere Elec­tric: Yes, con­gress finally got wise to the fact that turn­ing off the light to the incan­des­cent, so to speak, was long over­due. A recent ban in the U.S. of the 100-watt incan­des­cent and 60– and 40-watt bulbs took effect on Jan­u­ary 1, 2014. What impact will this have on  homeowners?

Click here to read An Inter­view with MR. LED, Part 2

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