Sunday May 21, 2006

Lighting Up The Future

A research team from Kennedy & Violich Architecture in Boston has designed solar-powered lamps composed of light-emitting diodes (LEDs) woven into colorful swaths of fabric. The lights are undergoing field testing in a remote mountain community of Mexico's Sierra Madre, Led Cloth

Depending on how a person folds or hangs one of the hand-towel-size pieces of cloth, it serves as a cordfree wall light, table top reading lamp, or hanging lantern.
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The researchers' goal: a safe, clean, rugged, and long-lived alternative to kerosene and candles for the world's 1.6 billion people living in homes without electricity.
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Other scientists are looking for ways to save lighting costs for people throughout the industrial world.

[ from Illuminating Changes part 1 of a 2-part series on lighting's environmental and human impacts. This week in Science News. ]

The incandescent bulb was commercialized in 1879 after nearly half a century of testing. Fluorescent lamps evolved in the late 1890's. Today, in the United States, nearly a quarter of the nation's electricity goes to making artificial light (along with an equally enormous quantity of carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxides, a sulfur dioxide. Yuch!)

[Sheila] Kennedy predicts that electric illumination is poised to undergo a dramatic metamorphosis from a "bulb culture" to a society that sees by the "digital light" of semiconductors.
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Many engineers share Kennedy's view that within a decade or two, most current lighting strategies will be as antiquated as the vacuum tube radio. They expect solid-state technology to expand from its current use of LEDs in flashlights, auto taillights, and novelty gear to widespread illumination.

Some examples from the article include: office lighting systems that automatically dim when there is sufficient daylight coming in through the windows; affordable room-lighting systems based on new technologies; tiles coated with plastic-wrap-thin [Organic LEDs] that cover walls and ceilings "like sheets of glowing paper"; LEDs integrated into yarn that could be woven into wall coverings or furniture; low-voltage devices that can divorce lighting from the central power grid.

Science News' Janet Raloff has written a very interesting article. Take a look!

Lighting Up The Future ( in category Noteworthy , SciTech ) - posted at Sun, 21 May, 00:05 Pacific | «e»