History of LED lights

History of LED lights

Over the last few years governments around the world have passed laws to effectively ban incandescent light bulbs in favour of highly efficient LED light bulbs. There’s been much speculation and counter speculation as to their efficiency. We will now take a look at the most commonly asked questions regarding LED lights, their history and how they have developed over the years.

Are LED lights a new technology?

As with so many “modern day” technologies there is a general misconception that LED lighting is a new phenomenon. As we will cover in the section, LED lighting is a technology which goes back more than 100 years. Yes, the early day technology bears no resemblance to the LED lighting of today but that is where everything started.

What does LED stand for?

The term LED stands for light emitting diode which is a more efficient type of lighting. Many people may be surprised to learn but the technology has been around since the 1960s. Over the years we’ve seen great improvements in this technology, resulting in the highly efficient LED light bulbs available today.

In its most simple form, an electric charge passes through a microchip within the LED lightbulb. This controls the flow of electric to the light emitting diodes thereby creating highly efficient light with minimal heat. Any heat that is created is absorbed into what is known as a heatsink within the bulb.

What are LED lights?

Whether at home or in the office, there is no doubt you will already have come across LED lighting in many different forms. This is the new improved more efficient lighting of the future, which will replace incandescent light bulbs. As we touched on above, the technology has been improved dramatically since it first evolved in the 1960s.

There is now much more control of the components of an LED light bulb. We live in an era where efficiency and value for money are prominent in society and business. Indeed, governments around the world are on a moral and practical crusade to protect the environment. The efficiency and the performance of LED light bulbs compare very favourably with their incandescent lightbulb counterparts.

What are LED lights made of?

To understand how LED lights are created/work we need to look at the various components. In simple terms, an LED (light emitting diode) is a semiconductor device. When an electric current is passed through the device it creates light. You will often see LED lighting described as a solid semiconductor material.

These are solid state devices as opposed to heated filament/gas discharged lighting created by incandescent, tungsten and fluorescent lamps. The light that you see created by an LED bulb is a product of the electrons combining with the semiconductor material. It is said that LED light bulbs use up to 90% less electricity than their traditional counterparts.

History of LED lights

What is the history of LED lights?

History shows that what we now know as electroluminescene can be traced back to 1907. Initially the creation of LEDs was credited to Soviet, German and British scientists although many more countries were involved. It was not until the 1960s that the creation of a practical LED lighting product hit the market. At the time it was extremely expensive. As a consequence this improved lighting technology was only used in scientific laboratories.

Towards the latter end of the 1960s we saw companies such as Hewlett-Packard taking an interest in this new emerging technology. The first usable Hewlett-Packard LED displays emerged in 1968 and we also saw the launch of an LED indicator lamp. Further discoveries, efficiency improvements and growing demand for efficient lighting products led to huge investment in LED technology. Significant restrictions in the width of colours available via early-stage LED lighting are now a thing of the past.

The colour you see with any LED light is created using three primary colours, red green and blue. The ability to control the output of each colour means any colour of the rainbow (and shade) is possible. Many people would be surprised to learn that the technology foundations for LED lighting are over 100 years old. Very different to the LED bulbs that we see today!

Why are LED light considered a green technology?

It is hard not to notice the increased take-up of LED lighting as governments around the world focus on green technology. There are numerous reasons for the green technology label being closely associated with LED bulbs.

  • LED lights use up to 90% less energy than their incandescent counterparts. This is due to the reduced electricity required to activate the light-emitting diodes.
  • Records show that LED lighting lasts up to 40 times longer than incandescent lighting, creating the same level and quality of light.
  • Just as importantly, as LED lighting is designed to last more than 10 years there is less waste due to reduced replacement needs.
  • There are no hazardous substances in LED lighting unlike high intensity discharge lamps which contain mercury.

In summary, LED lights used 90% less energy than their traditional counterparts, last up to 40 times longer (sometimes beyond) and have led to a significant reduction in waste. Exactly what the green revolution is all about?

How long have LED lights been available?

As we touched on above, the concept of LED lighting has been around since 1907. It was not until the 1960s that the use of LEDs lighting became a possibility for the mass market. Over the years there have been restrictions in the type and strength of light that LED bulbs have been able to produce. In recent years, we have seen huge technological advances in the area of light-emitting diodes. As a consequence, the LED light bulbs of today use 90% less energy than their incandescent counterparts while creating the same lighting colours and capacity.

There is no doubt that developments in LED technology have to a certain extent been fuelled by the ever strengthening green revolution taking the world by storm. This has led to the banning of certain types of incandescent light bulbs, and the legal requirement to use LED bulbs for lighting. The huge increase in LED lighting sales has led to more investment in technology. This has, and will continue to, fund innovation in the area of LED lighting systems for benefit of consumers, businesses and the environment. Many believe that we are only at the start of the LED lightbulb revolution with much more to come.

How have LED lights changed in recent years?

Now that we have had a brief look at the history of LED lights, let us take a look at how they have changed in recent years. There are numerous aspects to take into consideration. The world of lighting has changed, LED bulbs are here to stay and the technology is only getting better.

Focused lighting

The concept of focused lighting is alien to many of us. The incandescent lights of recent years used reflective components to light up the local vicinity. LED light bulbs are designed in such a way as to focus light in a particular area. As a consequence, they are extremely useful for reading and driving at night time. Night-time lighting when driving is an area many people would never have even considered for LED lights.

Significant reduction in temperature

Many people may not know but LED lights create between 20% and 50% less heat than incandescent, halogen and fluorescent bulbs. The creation of heat in this scenario is wasted energy which is not used by the lighting element. As a consequence, there are significant energy-savings with LED light bulbs. Unlike traditional incandescent light bulbs, the reduction in heat produced allows you to hold the LED light while replacing it. Gone are the days when you had to take your hand away as soon as the old light bulb came on!

Extended durability

First of all we will look at the physical aspects of LED lightbulbs. There is no delicate filament and there is no need for them to be made of glass tubing. LED lights are made of solid-state components and as a consequence they aren’t as fragile as traditional light bulbs. Due to the fact they are more robust they are suitable for use in more challenging environments.

Now to the interesting bit! The lifespan of an incandescent light bulb is around 1000 hours. A CFL counterpart will last between 8,000 and 10,000 hours. So what can we expect from a LED light? Well, the life of an LED bulb is not measured in the same way as normal lighting equipment. It doesn’t necessarily burn out. Over time, the LED light bulb will become dimmer. When they fall to around 70% of their initial brightness, the life of an LED lightbulb is deemed to be over. This level will be reached after between 30,000 and 50,000 hours of use. So they are up to 5 times more durable than a CFL light bulb and up to 50 times more durable than a traditional incandescent lightbulb. That says everything?

Repair and maintenance

If we take the two factors making up the durability of an LED lightbulb, the robust nature and the extended life, it is not difficult to see a significant reduction in repair and maintenance costs. It is unlikely that you will “break” an LED light bulb. The life in hours equates to between 1250 days (3.5 years) and 2083 days (5.7 years). As a consequence, there are huge long term benefits on the purchase of LED lights and the cost of repair and maintenance – especially when it comes to businesses.

Cost efficiency

Initially, prior to the release of data regarding LED light bulb durability and life span, many people were concerned about the extra cost. In recent times not only have we seen the cost of LED light bulbs fall, as manufacturing methods are improved, but consumers and businesses are now embracing this new concept. The huge long-term benefits of LED lighting are more appreciated today than they ever have been.


There is a general misconception that LED lighting is a fairly new development and the technology is at a fairly early stage. There are two things to consider here. LED lighting in some shape or form has been around since 1907. We have seen huge developments in the technology and improvements in light efficiency and light colours. Amazingly, the technology still has significant development potential, even more than 100 years after its initial discovery. When you consider the massively extended life of an LED light bulb, compared to incandescent and CFL counterparts, what more can we expect in the future?

There’s a lot more to come from LED lighting and LED technology in general. While many of us focus on the cost, durability and lifespan of these products, the benefits to the environment are huge. The introduction of LED light bulbs has significantly reduced the use of toxic materials such as mercury. The extended life of an LED light bulb means less waste and products are required. This brings us on to the potential for huge savings in the lightbulb industry. There is certainly much more to come from the LED technology before us today. It may have been around for more than 100 years, but the pace of development and advancement in this technology is mind blowing.