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The Nobel Prize in Physics for 2014 has been awarded to three Japanese scientists for “the invention of efficient blue light-emitting diodes, enabling bright and energy-saving white light sources.” The publicity generated by this award is likely to boost consumer interest in LED lamps.
Professors Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano and Shuji Nakamura created the first blue light-emitting diodes (LEDs) during the early 1990s. While red and green LEDs had been around for many years, blue LEDs had long stymied scientists in both academia and industry. Without them, the three colours could not be mixed to produce white light in lamps, as well as in computers and on TV screens.
In its award citation, the Nobel Academy stated that: “Incandescent light bulbs lit the 20th century; the 21st century will be lit by LED lamps.” Furthermore, it noted that the light source was brighter, cleaner and longer-lasting and would both save energy and the quality of life of millions of people around the world. “The LED lamp holds great promise for increasing the quality of life for over 1.5 billion people around the world who lack access to electricity grids. Due to low power requirements, it can be powered by cheap local solar power,” the committee stated.
As recently as 2009, LED lamps accounted for just 4% of global value sales of light sources. By 2013, this figure had increased to 15%. The phasing out of sales of incandescent lamps has played a significant role in this rise, as has a steep decline in LED manufacturing costs. LED lamps have proven to be particularly popular in Asia Pacific and Western Europe, where they accounted for 20% and 18% of value sales of light sources, respectively, during 2013.
Source: Euromonitor International
However, countries such as the UK and the US have proven to be much more resistant to their charms, with many consumers instead turning to halogen and CFL lamps to replace incandescents: LED lamps accounted for a mere 6% of value sales of light sources in North America in 2013, while in Australasia, the comparable figure stood at just 7%. The situation in Latin America is not much better, with LEDs accounting for 8% of value sales during the same year.
The temporary blaze of publicity that this award will generate is a gift to LED manufacturers. They should move quickly to capitalise on this opportunity by incorporating it into their marketing in order to stress the manifold advantages of LED lamps vis-à-vis other light sources, particularly in those markets that have, to date, proven to be relatively immune to their charms.
For more information, you can read our latest global briefing Light Sources Overview: LED Lights the Way