From: David A Gabel, ENN
Published August 25, 2010 10:38 AM

Artificial Light and Productivity

Artificial light has, throughout history, been a powerful force contributing to the quality and productivity of human life. It is so significant to human life that society spends an enormous amount of energy to produce it. Currently, there is new artificial lighting emerging on the market place. These new technologies, in the form of solid-state lighting (SSL), offer the promise of increased productivity without more energy usage, and a higher quality of life.


Artificial light was so important to early civilizations, that mythology deemed it a blessing from the gods. In Greek mythology, it was stolen by the titan, Prometheus from Zeus and given to the mortals. Of course, we are talking about fire, which is not artificial but widely thought of as the quintessential human invention. The light created by fire greatly increased quality of life. It allowed the waking day to be extended into the night, and allowed humans to be productive indoors as well as outdoors.

With the advent of electricity and the light bulb, human productivity and quality of life soared to new heights. But with all good things, this productivity came at a price – an increased demand for energy and greater pollution. Compact fluorescent bulbs are a good step in reducing the costs of artificial lighting. However, the newest technology, solid-state lighting (SSL), takes energy conservation to a whole new level.

In a recent study from Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico, researchers have suggested that SSL, which is based on semiconductor light-emitting diodes (LED), can also have an impact on improving quality of life. Their report has been published in IOP Science, Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics.

The US-based researchers predict future energy and light consumption by examining past behavior patterns. Their conclusion is that SSL, due to its cheap manufacturing and operating costs and its enhanced performance features, will have a positive impact on both energy consumption and human productivity, and that the two impacts are linked.

The researchers sum up, "An increase in the cost of energy associated with lighting, which would normally reduce both human productivity and energy consumption, can be mitigated by an increase in the efficiency in lighting: energy consumption can be held constant while maintaining some human productivity increase or energy consumption can be reduced without a decrease in human productivity."

The data collected and analyzed by the lab will be instrumental for governments interested in legislating regulations on energy consumption and the implementation of more efficient artificial light sources. Most predictions presume global energy demand to increase into the foreseeable future as productivity increases. The widespread adoption of SSL may well mean that society can have its cake and eat it too.

Link to published article in IOP Science:

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