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
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.
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.
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.