Innovation Moving At the Speed of Light

In our technology driven society we are often look at wonder at the latest innovations; however light is often the last place many would consider at the cutting edge of science. This year couldn’t be a better time to launch the international year of light as 2015 really has seen some incredible innovations within the photonics sector. In this article we are going to outline some of the more interesting developments at the leading edge of light science and some of the interesting applications that are starting to reach end consumers in the market.

Credit: Jose-Luis Olivares/MIT.

Credit: Jose-Luis Olivares/MIT.

At the bleeding edge of biomedical science, Optogenetics continues to blow our mind. For those unfamiliar with this field Optogenetics is the control of neurons that have been genetically sensitised to light. This means researchers can visualise and even control specific neuronal actions modulating behaviour in live animals with what Nature Methods have deemed ‘method of the year in 2010’. Whilst the application of optogenetics was limited due to issues in delivery of light to the neurons in question, however in August a team in Stanford created a fully implantable wireless device to stimulate nerves in mice. This massively expands the scope of what Optogenetics could achieve within the next few years. If start to consider developments within genetics like CRISPR a meeting of cutting edge methods could deliver some interesting experiments.

Moving further away from the bench towards the market we have seen pure LI-FI begin to address the market with visible light communication or using the visible light spectrum to wirelessly send data instead of radio waves. Why is this attractive? Li-fi is fast. How fast? Well the inventor of the technology, Professor Harald Haas, believes around 10 to 20 times as quick as current wi-fi speeds. Furthermore LED lighting is quickly becoming the biggest piece of technology in homes all over the world meaning the backbone for this infrastructure is available and ready. Finally in an increasingly connected internet of things driven world, security is becoming a paramount concern. Li-fi is more secure than traditional wifi as the li-fi signal is restricted to visible lights dispersion, meaning less ability for hackers to eavesdrop on wireless signals. If this all sounds fanciful and far from application keep in mind that this technology is set for roll out in the Golden State Warriors new stadium in 2018.

Moving more toward what is emerging on the market right now today? We continue to see masses of innovation based around lighting through kickstarter! Some examples? The illumibowl is a motion-activated toilet bowl nightlight! Sounds ridiculous but devices like this solve a real problem and working well in assisted living situations. Lumos have made an LED encrusted helmet to help keep cyclists safe at night.

Finally we are seeing applications of light that started life with niche scientific applications making their way towards the consumer market. We have previously discussed on the IYL 2015 blog the non-visual aspects of lighting and how different wavelengths of light can influence our behaviour. Lighting Science, a NASA spin out, started life aiming to keep astronauts happy and healthy in space through biologically active lighting. Using LED lighting with different wavelengths meant that crew on space missions could depend more on their own natural daily rhythms, supported by lighting, and less on drugs in order to stay rested and safe in space. This technology is now being rolled out to consumers with significant interest in their ‘sleepy baby’ range.

In conclusion whilst it is easy to overlook light as a key technology aiding innovation we can see that from the bench to the end user light is as disruptive as it gets. 2015 is the perfect year to shine a light on photonic led innovation though we believe it is paramount to communicate what the application is rather than how it does it. People love it when a problem is solved so to make the most out of the international year of light we could try focusing less on light in itself and more on the problems it can solve.


whichledlightWhich LED light is the UKs No.1 LED light comparison service helping users compare LED lights based around features, value, and price. Which LED light are starting an energy efficiency revolution by changing one light bulb at a time.Keep up to date with the latest developments in the LED lighting space at the Which LED Light blog.

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