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  • This episode of DNews is brought to you byHow We Got To Nowwith Steven Johnson

  • - premieres Wednesday October 15 at 9/8c on PBS.

  • Three scientists who invented the LED were awarded the Nobel Prize in physics this year.

  • But what have LED lights really done for us?

  • And more importantly, what can do they for the rest of the world?

  • Hey guys, Tara here for Dnews - and in this modern world, it can be easy to take for granted

  • just how much work and research went into developing the things we use every day.

  • Take LEDs, for example.

  • The three scientists who pioneered the LED - or light emitting diode - back in the early

  • 90s, were just awarded the 2014 Nobel prize in physics, which is exclusively awarded to

  • inventions that offer the greatest benefit to mankind.

  • Of course, those of us living in first-world countries may not view LEDs as anything more

  • than a way to save money on lightbulbs - but as the official press release says, “LEDs

  • have the potential to increase the quality of life for over 1.5 billion people around

  • the world who lack access to electricity grids.”

  • In the same way that Thomas Edison's filament bulb replaced gas lighting in the 19th century,

  • LEDs are poised to be the next big generation of lighting technology.

  • They're efficient, long-lasting, and by the year 2050 - they're expected to completely

  • replace fluorescent and incandescent bulbs.

  • Interestingly, when they first came about in the 1980s, LEDs weren't really all that

  • useful because at the time, they could only emit green and red light.

  • It wasn't until the 90s, when Shuji Nakamura developed the first high-brightness blue LED,

  • that people realized the three of those colors could be combined to produce white light - making

  • them acceptable for everyday use.

  • Since then, the technology has advanced at a remarkable rate.

  • They're roughly 15 times more efficient than incandescent bulbs, meaning you wouldn't

  • even need a power grid to use them.

  • Solar panels and small batteries would be more than enough to power the homes of the

  • staggering 1.2 billion people in the world who lack access to electricity.

  • Most of those households are still burning wood or gas for light - which isn't just

  • inefficient, it also creates indoor air pollution that according to the WHO, kills more people

  • every year than AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined.

  • Currently, the biggest hurdle is cost.

  • If you consider their longevity, and the savings in energy costs, then yes - LEDs are cheaper

  • than other types of lightbulbs.

  • It's the upfront costs that are higher.

  • If you were to buy a 60W incandescent bulb right now, it would cost you about a dollar.

  • A single LED bulb, however, with equivalent brightness would be about $10.

  • So it is a big financial commitment, but it also pays off in the long run.

  • Plus, LED bulbs - just like any technology - get dramatically cheaper every year.

  • Eventually, the hope is that every household in the world will have access to something

  • we here in developed nations, have had for centuries now - the miracle of modern light.

  • Kinda puts things into perspective, doesn't it?

  • What do you guys think?

  • Were these guys deserving of the Nobel Prize?

  • Let us know your thoughts in the comments below - and as always, thank you guys for

  • watching!

This episode of DNews is brought to you byHow We Got To Nowwith Steven Johnson

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