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.
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.
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.
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»