LED Lighting: Happy 50th, Buddy 0

Ikea announced earlier this month that it will switch to selling only LED bulbs and lamps by 2016, becoming the first U.S. home furnishing retailer to do so.

The announcement is fitting, as LED lighting technology celebrates its 50th anniversary. In October 1962, a scientist at General Electric, Nick Holonyak, invented the first practical visible-spectrum light-emitting diode, commonly known as LED.

“Boy, those were the golden years,” Holonyak, now 83 years old, said in a statement. “When I went in, I didn’t realize all that we were going to do. As far as I am concerned, the modern LED starts at GE.”

But the real golden years for LED are just getting started. The past half-century has been a long, slow march for the lighting, which can consume up to 85 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs and can last twenty times longer.

“It’s been a long period of time but the acceleration of LED has really taken shape in the last five to eight years,” said John Strainic, head of consumer lighting business at GE Lighting. “We’ve moved from basic lighting systems like traffic signals to signage applications to refrigeration displays then into outdoor lighting.”

Currently, indoor lighting is still primarily commercial applications, rather than residential lighting. Strainic said, however, that the commercial indoor space, rather than parking lot or warehouse lighting, is moving even faster than many in the industry would have thought even one or two years ago. He credits the expanding market to efficiencies and dropping prices, as well as “application-ready systems.”

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