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.


The LED Takeover

Long before Rubicon Technology was manufacturing sapphire for LEDs, it was the incandescent light bulb that illuminated our world. More than one-hundred years ago – in 1879 to be precise -Thomas Edison patented the first incandescent light bulb, igniting the lighting industry and paving the way for the ‘world after dark’ that we enjoy today.

Because of the steady warm glow they produce, incandescent bulbs were soon found to be fitting for most household applications. Fluorescent tube lights, on the other hand, were later developed to produce brighter neon light and be more efficient, making them suitable for commercial applications, such as offices, hospitals and stores.

An outgrowth of the Germans’ 19th century invention of the Geissler tube, the first real challenger to the incandescent bulb for home use, the compact fluorescent lamp (CFL), hit the market in the mid-1980s. Although they were significantly more efficient than incandescent light bulbs, at a retail price of $25-$35, CFLs were also more expensive, deterring consumers at first from purchasing them.

Since the 1990s, however, improvements in CFL performance, price, efficiency and lifespan have led to a rise in their popularity – not to mention they became one of few lighting alternatives available after the phase out of the incandescent bulb began in 2014.

When it comes to which type of light bulb will reign as king in the 21st century, LEDs have undoubtedly stolen the spotlight from CFLs. In addition to being one of the fastest developing lighting technologies today, LEDs are currently the most efficient lighting source on the market.

The first visible-spectrum LEDs were invented in 1962 by Nick Holonyak in the form of red diodes. These initial LEDs first became available to the public in the form of indicator lights and calculator displays in the 1970s. The invention of the blue diode in the 1990s by American Shuji Nakamura, along with Japan’s Isamu Akasaki and Horoshi Amano, quickly led to the development of white LEDs.

Ever since the invention of the white LEDs, we have seen their use explode in a variety of applications. They are now being used in major national and international landmarks such as the Empire State Building and Sydney Opera House, transforming these buildings into energy-efficient and eco-friendly locations. In addition, LEDs have made notable appearances at major events this year all across the globe, including Super Bowl XLIX in the U.S. and Chinese New Year celebrations in both China and Malaysia.


Aside from the more conventional lighting applications, LEDs are also being utilized in the beauty and health industry. NASA developed LED facial technology that is said to plump up aging skin, boost collagen and treat acne. In Iran, LEDs are being used in the treatment of cancerous and precancerous skin lesions and could be used in the treatment of skin cancer in the future.


LEDs have the potential to affect the modern world even more than the original incandescent bulb did in the 20th century. As costs continue to fall and more out-of-the-box applications are discovered, it is clear there is no stopping LEDs from taking over the world.

Sapphire Industry Watch – March 13

  • Rubicon CEO Discusses Applications for Sapphire – NBC 5 Chicago: Bill Weissman, CEO of Rubicon Technology, discusses current uses of sapphire in every day applications such as LED lighting and mobile applications, as well as more unique uses like invisible braces and high-end razor blades. As Rubicon continues to experiment with ways to bring sapphire manufacturing costs down, there is enormous potential for new and exciting applications of sapphire in the future.
  • Are LEDs About to Take Over the World? – The Huffington Post UK: Although the first LED light was produced in 1962, it wasn’t until recently that increased sustainability efforts and lowering costs encouraged the widespread adoption of LEDs. From the Empire State Building’s lighting renovation to NASA’s development of LED facials, it is clear we are living in the age of the LED.
  • Auckland’s bridge lit up by 51 thousand bulbs – stuff.co.nz:  In celebration of the city of Auckland’s 175th anniversary, New Zealand’s iconic Auckland Harbour Bridge is being transformed into an interactive art, music and light show for the next six weeks. More than 51,000 LED light bulbs have been synced to music chosen by the public and performances can be watched in-person, and also via live stream on mobile phones and laptops.
  • San Diego School District Uses Prop 39 Funds for Energy Savings – Energy Manager Today: Thanks to $850,000 in funding from Proposition 39, the California Clean Energy Jobs Act, the Del Mar Union School District in San Diego will be replacing current light fixtures with longer-lasting LED light fixtures with occupancy sensors and dimming controls. The school district will also receive a rebate for the LED installations from San Diego Gas & Electric.

Sapphire Industry Watch – January 23

  • Future looking bright for local ski hill – Wetaskiwin Times: Upon receiving a grant, the Gwynne Valley Ski Area in Alberta, Canada, has begun to install a new LED lighting system, complete with underground wiring to provide brighter and safer slopes for skiers and snowboarders. Although the winter weather has temporarily delayed the underground wiring portion of the project, six LED lights have already been installed to test the brightness of the lights and additional lights may be on their way.
  • Philly scientist working to help get astronauts a good night’s sleep – newsworks: Along with researchers at Harvard, George Brainard, a neuroscientist at Thomas Jefferson University, is working with NASA to develop new LED lighting systems that could help induce sleep for astronauts aboard the International Space Station. The system, which would replace aging fluorescent lights, is designed to help astronauts increase their average sleep time from less than six hours, to closer to the recommended eight.
  • LEDs Magazine announces finalists for inaugural Sapphire Awards– LEDs Magazine: LEDs Magazine has announced the finalists in the inaugural 2015 Sapphire Awards program for both enabling technologies and lighting products in the solid-state lighting (SSL) sector. The judges selected three to four finalists in each of 13 categories, naming Rubicon Technology as a finalist in the category of SSL enabling technologies for its large-diameter patterned sapphire substrates submission. Winners will be announced at a Gala on February 25, 2015 in Las Vegas, NV in conjunction with the Strategies in Light and The LED Show co-located events.
  • Race engine manufacturer installs LED lighting in California shop – LEDs Magazine: In an effort to better light its shop, Ed Pink Racing Engines has converted its Van Nuys, CA shop to an all LED lighting system. The system, designed by LEDtronics, provides clear lighting for the precise work that goes on in the shop and has also led to a 70 percent decrease in energy use over the previous fluorescent system. The team at Ed Pink estimates that the cost savings will pay for the conversion in 13 months.