An unconventional bug repellent

Imagine it’s a warm summer evening as you relax in your favorite lounge chair and soak in serenity. The sun begins to set, so you flip the porch lights on to continue reading the pages of the book you have just begun to feel absorbed in.

Abruptly, the peace ends and buzzing begins.

Artificial light attracts moths, flies, crane flies and even beetles, but arguably the most bothersome and harmful insect to join the aerial display of bugs around the bulb is the mosquito.

But why is it that insects are attracted to lights – often so much so that they are willing to burn to a crisp in attempt to get closer?

According to insects expert Debbie Hadley, night flying insects navigate by the moon, which reflects light at a constant angle, allowing insects to maintain a straight and steady flight path. Artificial lights, on the other hand, radiate light from all sides, thoroughly confusing and preventing insects from flying at a constant angle.

A recent study from The Royal Society, however, concluded that nocturnal arthropods, including mosquitoes, are substantially less attracted to LED lighting than light transmitted by compact fluorescents. Blue-free LED bulbs, in particular, were found to attract 20 percent fewer bugs than all other types of bulbs.

One of the major conclusions the scientists pulled from their research is that customized LED lighting could be beneficial for both people and the environment as a weapon against parasitic infections, such as West Nile virus and malaria.

Light & Mosquito

Still one of the leading causes of death in Africa and other areas, malaria kills an estimated 655,000 people every year, according to treehugger. Malaria is transmitted by female mosquitoes, specifically – which Bill Gates has deemed the deadliest animal on Earth.

Distributing LED bulbs amongst areas where mosquito-born diseases are common could help people have the necessary illumination at night without the risk of attracting more insects. Although there’s much room for improvement, the study claims its findings could be the catalyst for further progress in the fight against malaria, particularly as the cost of LEDs continues to decrease.

Sapphire Industry Watch – June 26

  • These LED skydivers turned the sky into a piano – Red Bull: In arguably their coolest stunt yet, the Red Bull Skydive Team fell 4,000m in complete darkness and turned the sky into their dance floor. Wired with LEDs, the wingsuits worn by the skydivers were choreographed to the music of Camo & Krooked, and the final video is nothing less than adrenaline-pumping.
  • Warsaw National Museum preserves art while enhancing mood with tunable lighting – LEDs Magazine: In an effort to preserve historic artworks while displaying them in optimum lighting conditions, the Warsaw National Museum has upgraded its lighting system to include LED spotlights with tunable white-point correlated color temperature (CCT). With its vast collection of over 800,000 pieces, the museum is already seeing a reduction in energy use, while still being able to display the works in the highest quality light.
  • Mini demos street lights that also charge your car – Gizmag: As part of Low Carbon Oxford Week in the UK, Mini showcased a new system called “Light and Charge” that would allow electric vehicle (EV) drivers to charge their vehicles from street lights. The units would employ a modular LED design that is more energy-efficient than conventional street lighting and drives would simply need to connect their vehicle and swipe a credit card to begin charging.
  • LED lighting could help with sleep patterns – Electronics Weekly: According to wake-sleep pattern research conducted by the University of Manchester, the changing balance between blue and yellow when the sun rises and sets affects the wakefulness of mammals. As humans’ reactions to the color spectrum continues to become more understood, LED luminaires could be designed to produce custom responses – more wakeful in the morning and sleepier in the evening, for example.

Sapphire Industry Watch – June 19

  • Light on your feet! Japanese inventor creates LED dancing shoes that allow users to paint the town any colour they like – Daily Mail: With artists and performers in mind, Japanese inventor Yuya Kikukawa has designed shoes with 100 LED lights and motion sensors in each sole. The “Orphe shoes“ can be controlled independently from a tablet, allowing the creative wearers to paint the town with their feet in customizable patterns.
  • Mount Rushmore introduces unique lighting system – KDLT News: Thanks to a new LED lighting system, the night time viewing experience has been improved for the nearly two million visitors who visit the Mount Rushmore National Memorial each year. The recently installed system will result in less light pollution while reducing energy consumption by 90 percent.
  • Through the wormhole! Waterslide with spectacular LED lighting gives sensation of travelling through time – Daily Mail: Bad 1, an indoor leisure pool on the German coast of Bremerhaven, features an incredibly colorful LED waterslide that is undoubtedly the fantasy of every child. Completely unsuspecting from the outside, multi-colored rings and lights provide riders sliding down the 25 foot tall and 256 foot long waterslide with the feeling they are traveling through a wormhole.
  • Why LED lights may become standard equipment on most cars – The Cheat Sheet: According to the Department of Energy, as LED prices have gone down in recent years, both their value and availability have skyrocketed. This drop in price will allow more cars than ever before to feature LED lighting. What were once considered a luxury, features such as sport LED- headlamps, daytime running lights and LED-charged turn signals are becoming much more common on affordable automobiles.

LEDs turn up the competition in price war against CFLs

The New York Times recently reported that CFL shipments were down by almost 10 percent for the first quarter of 2015 compared with the same period last year, while shipments of LEDs were up by more than 150 percent, according to the National Electrical Manufacturers Association.

So what does this mean?

The demand for CFLs is dwindling, while the demand for LEDs is rising. For years, the cost differential was the only competitive advantage CFLs enjoyed; but now the playing field is leveling. While there are still applications that are better-suited to CFLs as opposed to LEDs, like areas which require high-intensity lighting, manufacturers like General Electric are shifting their focus towards LEDs.

In the past month or so, we’ve seen two relatively inexpensive LED bulbs come to market, thanks to GE and Philips.

The GE Bright Stik, a cylindrical 60-watt bulb, comes in a three-pack available for $9.97. The light bulb is geared toward businesses that typically use CFLs, like hotels, because its slimmer shape lets it fit into existing fixtures that were designed for CFLs.

Philips’ low-priced LED bulb was introduced to the market at $4.97 apiece, with a two-for-one deal for the first 90 days. The bulb is meant to serve as a utilitarian bulb that does not dim and can be used in places like basements, laundry rooms and anywhere that requires a consistent level of lighting.

Phillips Bulb

This is all positive news for the entire LED industry — sapphire manufacturers included. Prices for LEDs have dropped in part because of government regulations, but also because of increased efficiencies when it comes to LED and sapphire manufacturing.

By developing large diameter wafers, manufacturers have been able to maximize the usable area of a sapphire wafer, which effectively maximizes the number of LED chips produced per wafer. Then, through technologies like Patterned Sapphire Substrates, precise etching and patterning can increase the total light extraction efficiency as much as 30 percent.

With prices dropping, LEDs are now becoming a viable option for people’s lighting needs worldwide. From Africa to Asia to North America, LED lighting is helping to break new grounds. As LEDs continue catch on, the LED Revolution we have been discussing on this blog becomes less hypothetical and more a reality.

Sapphire Industry Watch – June 12

  • World acclaim for Thai students’ invention to help coral reefs – Thai Visa News: Two Thai university students recently received a prestigious honor at a convention in Switzerland for their invention of a computer-controlled LED lighting system capable of stimulating and quickening the growth of coral in threatened reefs.  By using different shades and light frequencies to simulate the natural surroundings of sunlight and moonlight, the system’s LED bulbs enable coral to reach growth maturity weeks, and even months, faster than normal.
  • Dyson’s LED lamp promises to burn brightly for 37 years – Gizmag: Jake Dyson, son of Dyson company founder James Dyson, recently announced the company has developed an LED lamp capable of lasting 37 years. By applying technology similar to “heat-pipe technology” used in satellites called Csys, the LEDs are properly cooled, greatly extending the bulb’s lifespan.
  • Anaheim has one colorful roof – The Orange County Register: An LED lighting system has been installed on the dome roof of the Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center (ARTIC). Designed to glow colorfully for sporting events, holidays and special occasions, the California city even has a policy in place for deciding the mood lighting of any particular night’s design.
  • Five-buck bulbs: The LED revolution is on – Business Spectator: Lighting companies have ignited a revolution by reducing the cost of LEDs to an affordable $5 or less, down $20 from when they were first introduced a few years ago. Thanks to this significant drop in price, consumers will save billions of dollars annually and reduce millions of tons of fossil fuel pollution.

The Future of Eye Exams

In recent years, a series of portable medical devices has been revolutionizing healthcare and medical treatments in rural, developing countries. The latest innovation that’s generating buzz? Your smartphone.

A team of doctors from London’s Moorfields Eye Hospital have developed a solution to help crack down on eye disease in rural areas of countries like Kenya. Through a simple smartphone app and low-cost adaptor, Peek enables professional eye examinations to be conducted anywhere in the world.

According to Peek’s creator, Dr. Andrew Bastawrous, 39 million people are blind, but 80 percent of this blindness could be avoided if people in rural regions had access to proper eye care. It’s often easy to treat with something as simple as a pair of glasses or cataract surgery, but too often afflicted people are beyond the reach of a basic eye exam.

The Peek system is as easy as taking a photo – the adaptor slips neatly over the built-in camera on a smartphone, and when used with the Peek app, can perform a series of eye exams with the click of a button. This eliminates the need to lug around traditional ophthalmoscopes and other pieces of bulky equipment that also require a stable power supply – something hard to come by in the developing world.

Eye Exam


Through these high-quality images that are comparable to pictures taken with traditional equipment, eye examiners can view cataracts closely enough to detect signs of glaucoma, macular degeneration and signs of nerve disease.

As researchers continue to develop low-cost, innovative medical tools like this, it is important to think about durability and functionality of the materials used in the device itself. When testing eyes, a clear, scratch-free lens is necessary to ensure the accuracy of the diagnosis. Additionally, these devices will be used in rural locations where the chance of scratching or breaking a lens is high.

Many smartphone manufacturers have already made the switch to sapphire camera lenses in order to improve durability and performance. These lenses are virtually scratch-resistant and will not show wear and tear the same way a traditional glass lenses will.

In fact, sapphire is already being widely used in the medical field, specifically in surgical tools, implants and in a variety of windows for medical equipment such as endoscopes and laser windows. We truly believe that sapphire could play a large role in the success of these eye exams and would encourage doctors planning to utilize a tool like this to consider what their camera lens is made of.

Sapphire Industry Watch – June 5

  • LTP Takes Interactive Architectural LED Lighting to New Heights for Barratt London – LEDs Magazine: Lighting Technology Projects has completed work on another energy-efficient architectural LED lighting scheme. The Tower, which is the centerpiece of Barratt London’s new regeneration project, is a 27-story residential building which overlooks West London’s ‘Golden Mile’. The installment is comprised of 53 horizontal rows going up the ‘spine’ or the building, each containing six LED lights that are programmed to operate fully automatically.
  • Lower-Cost LEDs Offer Some Competition to Compact Fluorescent Lights – The New York Times: LEDs have long been more expensive than CFLs, but with costs beginning to level and consumer demand is starting to shift, experts say that demand for compact fluorescents will continue to dwindle, while demand will continue to rise for LEDs.
  •  Strategies Unlimited Reports Global Packaged LED Market to Reach $22B by 2019 – LEDs Magazine: Strategies Unlimited recently released a report investigating the global packaged LED market. The total packaged LED market grew 7.6 percent in 2014 to reach overall revenue of $15.6 billion. Lighting made up 34 percent of total revenue, which is almost the same as display backlighting and mobile applications combined, and is expected to reach 45 percent of total revenue by 2019.
  • Materials Innovations Help LEDs Turn On – Photonics Spectra: Innovations in sapphire manufacturing is helping cut cost and boosting performance for LEDs. While there are other suitable substrate choices for LEDs, the majority of LEDs today are using sapphire. Rubicon Technology’s CEO, Bill Weissman discusses how the industry shift towards large diameter wafers minimizes edge loss and how patterning of substrates is increasing light extraction.

Sapphire Industry Watch – May 29

  • Data Transmission with LED Light to Be Possible – Business Korea:  A Korean research team from The Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute has successfully developed visible light communication networking technology capable of delivering information through LED lights. This technique – which could begin the lighting communications era – allows people to receive information through network transmission devices by storing and sending digital information when LED lights blink.
  • New LED lights shine on bridge to Belle Isle – Detroit Free Press: Arriving just in time for Detroit’s Grand Prix racing weekend, more than 300 new LED light bulbs have been installed across the MacArthur Bridge on Belle Isle. As part of a ceremony to celebrate the bridge’s new lights, a bright red Grand Prix pace car drove across the bridge while the white LEDs were switched on. Lighting costs for the bridge are expected to drop to a third of what they were prior to the LEDs.
  • This is why we should be farming in skyscrapers – CityMetric: Futurists have been dreaming of ways to feed Earth’s growing population for decades, but thanks to new technology, there might finally be a solution. By utilizing LED lighting and indoor growing methods, vertical farming could be the way of the future by providing food to cities while also helping save ecosystems around the world from being converted to farmland.
  • Supermarket LED lights talk to smartphone app – BBC News: French supermarket chain Carrefour is the first retailer to install a new LED system capable of sending special offers and location data directly to shoppers’ smartphones. Codes are transmitted to phone cameras via light waves that are undetectable to the human eye, enabling shoppers to quickly receive information on promotions going on around them.

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.