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Evolution of lighting: image shows thousands of LED bulbs.

The evolution of lighting: from Edison to LEDs

In the timeline of human innovation, few inventions have illuminated our lives quite like the humble light bulb.

In this article, Savage Lighting takes a look back at the evolution of lighting, and the lighting milestones through history that have shaped the way we light up our world, from the Edison bulb through to smart LED technology.

1878 – Edison’s bright idea

The evolution of lighting timeline begins in the late 19th century, when Thomas Edison began serious research into developing a practical incandescent lamp. On 14 October 1878, he filed his first patent application for “Improvement in Electric Lights”.

This pivotal moment marked the birth of commercially manufactured light bulbs, and by 1880, the Edison Electric Light Company began marketing its revolutionary new product – the Edison light bulb.

1955 – Halogen lamps heat up

Fast forward to the mid-20th century, where the minds at General Electric were dreaming up another lighting breakthrough. Elmer Fridrich and Emmet Wiley unveiled the first halogen lamp in 1955, having overcome a significant challenge that had thwarted other inventors – the blackening of the lamp. Fridrich discovered that applying a small amount of iodine around the tungsten filament would allow it to burn at elevated temperatures. Using the high heat output of the halogen, the early lamps were designed and used to “bake” paint onto meta.

However, early halogen lamps had a number of disadvantages. From burn risks to explosion hazards, early adopters of the technology had to tread carefully.

1962 – The dawn of LEDs

By the arrival of the swinging sixties, the stage had been set for another revolution in the evolution of lighting timeline. In October 1962, a scientist also working for the General Electric Company, Nick Holonyak, demonstrated the first Light Emitting Diode (LED) capable of producing visible light.

Prior to this, LED light bulbs could only emit invisible infra-red light, similar to those used in modern TV remote controls.  The new development, which used a mixture of gallium arsenide and gallium phosphide, was limited to producing a red light. Despite this, Holonyak boldly predicted that his invention would change the world of lighting forever, stating in February 1963 that the LED would eventually replace incandescent bulbs altogether.

The LED renaissance

As the decades rolled on, LEDs underwent a metamorphosis of their own. By the 1970s, yellow and green LEDs were making their debut, although their dim glow left something to be desired. It wasn’t until the 1980s that advancements in materials sparked a renaissance in LED technology, delivering a dazzling ten-fold increase in brightness.

Finally, in 1996, the Nichia Company announced the production of white LEDs. Since then, their power, efficiency, and brightness have only increased. As predicted by Holonyak, the default for lighting is no longer incandescent bulbs, but powerful LEDs consuming a mere fraction of the energy an old Edison bulb would.

A timeline of the LED

Many people believe that LED (Light-emitting diode) lighting is a 21st century invention, but in reality LEDs were created much earlier than that and have been developing ever since. Many people have helped create the LEDs that we use today, below is a short timeline of their history:

  • 1927 – Russian inventor Oleg Lesev reports the creation of the first LED. Publishing theories on his findings.
  • 1952 – Professor Kurt Lechovec tests some of Losevs theories, he goes on to explain the first light-emitting diodes.
  • 1958 – Egon Loebner and Rubin Braunstein create the first green LED.
  • 1962 – Nick Holonyak develops a red LED- the first on the visible spectrum. The First LED is created.
  • 1964 – IBM starts to implement LEDs for the first time on a circuit board in an early computer.
  • 1968 – Hewlett Packard (HP) starts incorporating LEDs into its calculators.
  • 1971 – A blue LED is created by Edward Miller and Jacques Pankove.
  • 1972 – Electrical Engineer M. George Craford invents the first yellow LED.
  • 1986 – Herbert Maruska and Walden C. Rhines from Stafford University create a working blue LED using Magnesium. Setting all future standards.
  • 1993 – Physicists Isamu Akaski and Hiroshi Amano develop a high-quality Gallium Nitride for blue LEDS. Through Akaski and Amanos developments, electrical engineer Shuji Nakamura creates the first high-brightness blue LED, which quickly leads to the development of white LEDs.
  • 2002 – White LEDs for residential use become commercially available for approximately £80-£100 per bulb.
  • 2008 – LEDs start to become popular in schools, offices and hospitals.
  • 2019 – LEDs are the main source of lighting, halogen and fluorescent bulbs are being phased out.

The evolution of lighting just in relation to LEDs is truly amazing. The LED has gone from a small indicator life to now being one of the main ways people light their homes, offices, schools and hospitals.

The future of lighting: Smart LED Technology

In today’s world, smart lighting is revolutionising the way we interact with our environments. With the integration of cutting-edge technology, smart lighting systems have evolved to offer unprecedented convenience, efficiency, and customisation options. Here’s a glimpse into the latest innovations shaping the realm of smart lighting:

  1. Human-centric Lighting – Circadian Rhythm

Recent advancements have the development of human-centric LED lighting systems, designed to mimic natural daylight patterns. These systems adapt the intensity and color temperature of artificial lighting to promote well-being, enhance productivity, and regulate our circadian rhythms. By providing the right light at the right time, human-centric lighting is transforming the way we experience indoor spaces. Find out more about the benefits of circadian lighting here.

  1. Personalised lighting systems

Smart lighting solutions offer an array of customisable features, allowing users to create personalised lighting scenarios to suit different moods and activities. From color-changing options to adjustable brightness levels, users can effortlessly tailor the ambiance of their spaces to reflect their desired atmosphere, whether it’s for relaxation, productivity, or entertainment.

As the world embraces the era of interconnected devices, the realm of smart lighting continues to push the boundaries of innovation, transforming the way we illuminate and interact with our surroundings.

Unfortunately, there is no magic number for a colour temperature that works perfectly in all conditions. A lower temperature like 2700° K enhances the reds, browns and oranges, while a higher temperature like 5000° K and above saturates the blues. Going to extreme temperatures, in either direction, will most likely result in an unpleasant look of your space.

  1. Antimicrobial lighting

Antimicrobial LED technology is a newer class of clean light technology that harnesses its microbial killing power from the visible light spectrum (not from the ultraviolet spectrum). The technology is specifically engineered to produce an abundance of light in a range that has been shown to both prevent the growth of and kill bacteria, fungi, yeast, mould, and mildew.

Because it’s delivered in a small LED diode – it’s a very flexible technology that can easily be embedded in smaller places or inside other devices.

The evolution of lighting: beyond brightness

From Edison’s first patent to today’s smart LEDs, the evolution of lighting has come a very long way. With smart features like human-centric designs and antimicrobial capabilities, lighting isn’t just about brightness anymore—it’s about enhancing our lives and our environment.

At Savage Lighting, we prioritise energy-efficient, low-waste lighting. Our team continuously strives to innovate, integrate developments in technology and embrace the demands of the industry.

We can manufacture to suit existing hole cut outs and apertures and will always refurbish wherever we can, helping our clients to reduce their ecological footprint where possible. Most importantly, we do all of this without sacrificing quality.

If you’re ready for a lighting refurbishment, we’d be happy to assist. Get in touch today to find out more.

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