About the author
As we start a new year and look forward to the days getting longer and the sun shining brighter, now’s the perfect time to introduce 2015 as the International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies. This United Nations initiative aims to raise awareness on the importance of light in our lives and the scientific advances making all of this possible. Light plays a crucial role in all aspects of society – from energy to agriculture and from communications to health.
Depending on one’s background, light can mean different things and be experienced in very different ways. For a photographer or cineaste light allows him/her to capture the perfect moment, for a performer light allows him/her to captivate the audience, but what all people have in common is a natural attraction to light. Darkness and even the word ‘dark’ has a negative connotation in almost every language, illustrating the subconscious desire for light in our lives.
The art of making fire was the first time humans managed to control the presence of light in their lives other than relying on the stars or the moon. Since then, many scientific advances have brought us from candles and oil lamps to incandescent light bulbs, fluorescent lights and current day breakthroughs such as LEDs, OLEDs or quantum dots. The scientific evolution of light is so spectacular and is associated with so many changes in our society that it is difficult to fully appreciate the magnitude of its impact.
What Is Light Made Of?
When reduced to its essence, light is nothing other than a manifestation of energy as a wave. Depending on the energy or wavelength of that wave we perceive it as different colours or even a whole range of other useful types of light such as X-rays, UV-light, infrared light, microwaves, radio waves, etc. Everything from satellites, radio, television, the internet, fibre optic cables, communication, heating, lighting, medical imaging, radiotherapy, food preservation or even sunbathing relies essentially on light in one form or another. The challenge for scientists has been to generate light on demand and of the right wavelength(s), with as little energy loss as possible.
This simple concept explains the whole evolution from incandescent light bulbs, fluorescent tubes up to LEDs or from old bulky CRT TVs and then plasma to LED, OLED and nowadays even razor thin quantum dot screens.
The Science behind light
The conversion from electricity to light continues to be pushed to maximum efficiency without losing energy as heat, but also truer colours or the quest for the complete absence of light as the deepest rendering of black continue to challenge scientists.
New, better and more sustainable materials are constantly being investigated by chemists and other researchers as we try to ensure that everyone can have equal access to the best light, while at the same time respecting the boundaries of the planet we have been given.
Light still has many secrets even though it has allowed us to look into the far corners of the universe and will always spark our imagination as long as human curiosity exists…follow the light!
Have a bright 2015!