LED Technology illuminates a new spectrum of colour

We are all familiar with dramatic snowy backcountry scenes thanks to desktop images on our computer and footage of adventurous skiers traversing beautifully dangerous snowscapes. But beyond capturing these dramatic landscapes in an image, it is difficult to control or affect the atmosphere of these large scale environments in real time. Sweetgrass Productions, sponsored by Philips TV, managed to capture the looming mountain faces of the Alaskan wilderness in the dark, illuminated in hues of electric colour, in their recent short film – Afterglow.

In the clip two professional skiers were clad with some 7,000 LED lights sewn into their suits, also containing its own power source, illuminating their immediate surroundings as they cut through the snow. They traversed a dark mountainous landscape that was lit by eight 4,000-watt LED lights, becoming something akin to a moving electric painting.

Finding new ways of changing how we see the colours of our surroundings is just one implication of LED technology. The 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics was just awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences to Japanese professors Isamu Akasaki and Hiroshi Amano from the University of Nagoya, alongside fellow professor Shuji Nakamura of the University of California, Santa Barbara. The prize was in recognition of their invention of blue Light Emitting Diodes (LED) back in 1994.

This was a game changing technology in the field of illumination, with incredible implications on the development of our technical culture. LEDs are vastly superior to all other available forms of lighting, such as incandescent bulbs, since there are no filaments which can burn out and get very hot. Another hallmark of its dominance is its efficiency. To give a little perspective, incandescent bulbs create 16 lumens per watt, compact fluorescents 67 lumens per watt and the LED emits 83 lumens per watt, which is projected to increase to 150 lumens per watt by 2020. It is a lighting technology that is continually improving and developing. In addition to this, material consumption also decreases as LED lights have a lifetime ocf up to 100,000 hours, in contrast to the 1,200 hour lifespan of an incandescent bulb and 10,000 for fluorescent lights, making it cheaper over the life of the unit. This means that the required power source to illuminate a skier can be sewn into the sleeve of a suit.LED lit skiiers

Beyond efficiency, the discovery of the blue LED opened up a world of colour. The green and red LEDs had already been acknowledged for some time by the early 1990’s. The mastering of blue LED meant that we gained the ability to not only make white light, but to combine with the other primary colours. Thus, a wide spectrum of coloured light became available that could be dynamically controlled, making the beautiful landscapes exhibited in Afterglow possible. Since power sources are constantly becoming more efficient and the intensity of illumination can now be controlled and intensified, mass light installations in dark landscapes is only the beginning for how we can see our world in another spectrum of colour.

(Photos from Phillips)

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