LEDs in Space

Here on planet Earth, LEDs have gained a foothold and are finding their way into many new applications, such as consumer electronics, professional sports stadiums and even the headlights of automotive vehicles. But, NASA is out to prove that LED lights could have more extreme, out of this world applications.

Permanent Lunar Life Support

With no atmosphere, the moon is clearly not suitable for growing crops. As NASA researchers tinker with the idea of future long-term lunar residents, they’ve determined food could be grown in sub-lunar lava tubes or greenhouses shielded with layers of rock. LED technology is arguably what will drive photosynthesis within these mediums.

According to Cary Mitchell, a plant biologist at Purdue University, LEDs as lunar light sources would be cool, solid state and robust, not to mention last at least 50,000 hours. LEDs would also be tough enough to survive the journey to the moon, where they could then be strung inside whatever plant growth shelter is decided on.

But inflatable lava tunnels or solid greenhouses aren’t the only devices that have the potential to house crops on the lunar surface.

3D Printable Space Gardens

As a product of NASA’s recent Print Your Own Space Food challenge, the AstroGro system was invented as a way to feed astronauts on deep space missions.

AstroGro is a space garden pod that relies on 3D printing to produce a system that can be replicated and modified while in the depths of space. It consists of plastic pods equipped with LED lights, a watering system and an electronic monitoring system that uses artificial intelligence to provide optimum growing conditions.


Source: Gizmag

The key benefit of AstroGro is that it can be printed in greater numbers to meet demand, produce different pods for new crops or be melted down and recycled. The pods may even have applications on Earth as a way of growing food in the home or nearer to a market.

A Cure for Astronauts’ Insomnia

Not only do LEDs have the potential to be instrumental in feeding astronauts during long missions, they could also help space travelers get a better night’s sleep.

In response to an epidemic of insomnia amongst astronauts on board the International Space Station– roughly half of all astronauts, at some point, take sleep medication – NASA has begun replacing all lighting on the ISS with LEDs. The lights tap into the human brain’s response to light cycles by being programmed to simulate nature – blue lights shine in the morning, white during the day and red in the evening.


Source: Gizmag

LEDs – The Lighting of the Future

Coming back down to Earth, LEDs are continuing to prove their benefits to indoor farming as well as to a better night’s sleep. As experiments with LEDs continue on Earth, and more benefits are discovered, we can expect to see new ideas immerge about how they can impact and improve the future of space travel. LEDs are truly the future both on Earth and in space.


Sapphire Industry Watch – May 22

  • Brighter Nights Ahead With LED Streetlight Pilot Project – KDLT News: A pilot project to replace traditional high-pressure sodium streetlights with LEDs is underway in the city of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Due to the energy efficiency and long lifespan of LEDs, the project will pay for itself in savings in just under five years. The city received a grant from Heartland Consumers Power District to help supplement a portion of the up-front expenses for the lighting upgrade.
  • Lincoln Park Church to Serve as Giant Canvas for Light Show This Week – DNAinfo: During the week of May 18, 60 LED lighting fixtures illuminated St. Vincent de Paul Church in Chicago, Illinois with a beautiful array of color and projections. The lighting was designed by students from The Theater School at DePaul University, along with guidance from DePaul alumnus and light designer Paul Gregory.  The church’s exterior will be transformed by light and projections inspired by artists such as Vincent van Gogh.
  • Pajaro Valley berries right from the start – The Californian: A decade ago, Driscoll’s, a major producer of both organic and non-organic berries, transformed a former greenhouse in Watsonville, California into a state-of-the-art propagation facility that produces berry plants for the company’s commercial growers. Fluorescent lighting in the facility has recently been replaced with LED lighting, as red and blue LEDs have been shown to enhance the growth of the plants.
  • It’s All About the Quality of Light – Santa Barbara Independent: The last phase of Santa Barbara County’s project to install LED lights along major streets in Isla Vista and UC Santa Barbara has been completed. The project began several years ago in an effort to improve lighting in Isla Vista and create a safer environment for residents.

Sapphire Industry Watch – May 15

  • A giant Pac-Man is going to take on Sydney’s Vivid light festival – Business Insider Australia: At this year’s “Vivid Sydney”, an annual 18-day festival of light and music, students from the University of New South Wales will premiere a giant robotic Pac-Man game, complete with glowing LED ghosts and a three-meter maze. Created using a mix of programmable LED strip lighting, laser-cut and 3D printed materials, installations like this are the reason the event is highly popular amongst tourists and locals, attracting 1.43 million visitors in 2014.
  • LED market outlook is bright – Energy Manager Today: According to a recent report from Navigant Research, the cost of LEDs has declined to a point where LED lighting is becoming the most economical choice for nearly every application. Through 2024, unit shipments of LED lamps and modules are expected to experience an overall 19 percent compound annual growth rate.
  • Construction of SunTrust Park enters next phase – WSB Radio: As construction of the Atlanta Braves’ new stadium, SunTrust Park, ramps up, the MLB team has decided to install LED lighting. Braves’ VP Mike Plant says LED lighting provides many benefits to the in-game experience, including better visual quality for fans watching in the stands and on TV at home and faster on/off capabilities compared to other lighting options.
  • America’s smartest bridge to get connected lighting system – New Civil Engineer:  The new Tappan Zee Bridge in New York will have the first ever connected LED lighting system for both its road and architectural lighting. The lighting will be able to be controlled remotely from a single dashboard to reflect special occasions such as holidays or wins by local sports teams. Upon completion in 2018, the bridge will be the most technologically advanced bridge in North America.

LEDs Light the Way for Automotive Industry

It’s a familiar experience — it’s late at night and you’re driving along a dark, curvy road. You take a turn around a corner and all of a sudden an oncoming car practically blinds you with its high beam lights.

Thanks to the help of LEDs, that problem could soon be eradicated entirely. LEDs are quietly heading up a revolution in the automotive industry, leading to new vehicle designs and providing enhanced nighttime vision and safety for drivers.

There’s no mistaking the glow of an LED headlamp in the newer automotive models, especially in comparison to the yellow tinge of their older counterparts. LEDs are even serving as identifiers and differentiators between different makes and models.

For instance, there’s no mistaking the distinct shape of Audi headlights:


Or the four circles on BMW models:


Because they are smaller, run cooler and use less energy than traditional light bulbs and standard automotive headlamps, LEDs are catching on in the automotive industry — much like they are gaining popularity in commercial and residential uses.

But these LEDs aren’t just for looks and show.

For instance, when combined with cameras, these “smart” headlights are more than just a standard set of high beams and low beams. Instead, they can continuously alter light patterns to adjust to the immediate road and weather conditions. The system is so good at not shining light on vehicles traveling ahead of it that the high beam can remain on and adjust itself, even if eight cars are in front — giving nighttime drivers a better, safer experience.

If Americans are looking to reap the benefits of this sort of smart technology, they may have to wait a few years. Unfortunately, all cars sold in the United States must adhere to a specific light pattern, so all models are fitted with standard headlights.

Automakers are even projecting that a time will come when headlights will be able to project patterns like a foot path on the road to help pedestrians cross the street, or even lines to the left and right of the vehicle as it passes through a construction zone to avoid any hazards.

But until then, we can look in awe at the European cars and their “smart” headlights.

Sapphire Industry Watch – May 8

  • The Hidden Perils of Energy Efficient Fluorescent Lighting – Sourceable: Fluorescent lamps have long been seen as a source of energy efficient lighting, but they pose a threat to the environment and human health as a result of their mercury content. Besides being greener in nature, LED light bulbs are devoid of mercury, making them the preferred alternative to fluorescent lamps when it comes to energy efficient lighting.
  • With LED Lights, Automakers Reveal All the Road We Cannot See – New York Times: Thanks to LEDs, automotive lighting is undergoing a quiet revolution that is leading to new vehicle designs and providing enhanced nighttime safety. By combining LED lamps with cameras, a vehicle’s headlights can continuously alter their light patterns to exactly fit road conditions.
  • Green Focused People Power LEDs – The Asian Age: India’s LED light industry is continuing to grow thanks to public awareness and government energy conservation initiatives. According to recent data from the Electric Lamp and Component Manufacturers Association of India, LED lights are likely to account for about 60 percent of the total lighting industry by 2020.
  • Implications for LEDs of The Shift to Large-Diameter Sapphire Wafers – Semiconductor Today (Pgs. 68-71): Rubicon Technology’s senior VP of operations, Faisal Nabulsi, explains the changes in the sapphire wafer market over the past two years, and how large diameter and patterned sapphire substrates are impacting LED manufacturing.

Sapphire Industry Watch – May 1

  • 3D-printable AstroGro System To Foster Astronaut’s Green Thumbs – Gizmag: As manned missions beyond Earth’s orbit become closer to a reality, one of the main challenges is feeding the crew without the possibility of resupply from home. Looking to solve the problem, AstroGro designed a 3D-printed device for growing food. It consists of plastic pods equipped with LED lights, a watering system, and an electronic monitoring system that uses artificial intelligence to provide optimum growing conditions. If natural light is lacking, the LED lights provide supplemental light at the desired frequency.
  • New LED Lights Could Play Huge Role In Ending Malaria – The Huffington Post: A recent study from researches at the University of Southern California and University of California, Los Angeles, found that mosquitoes were significantly less attracted to customized LED lighting than light transmitted by compact fluorescents. By reducing insect attraction to artificial light, LED’s can help reduce the amount of mosquito’s present in homes, thus lowering the chances for the spread of malaria.
  • Apple Watch Scratch Resistance: Ion-X vs. Sapphire Glass – Slash Gear: Consumer Reports recently tested the durability and scratch resistance of the Apple Watch Sport and the higher-end Apple Watch. Based on the scratch tests conducted, the higher-end Apple Watch – which is outfitted with a sapphire glass faceplate – was able to withstand more of a beating than the Ion-X glass equipped Apple Watch Sport.
  • Displays You Wear – Photonics Spectra: The augmented reality and wearable device industries are facing many challenges, specifically in the form of consumer devices. With the development of a wearable device, such as a watch, comes the need for a stronger screen that isn’t bulky or strange looking. Solutions to these issues are becoming easier due to innovations in protective covers, such as man made sapphire. Sapphire is more expensive than glass, but its greater scratch resistance, strength and durability allow products to be thinner, which can be a plus in wearables.