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10 Unconventional Uses For LEDs

If you pause to look around, you’ll notice LEDs are almost everywhere these days. Just this year, they hit the high fashion runway, paved the way for the special effects in the Oscar-nominated movie “Gravity” and made an appearance at the Super Bowl. But what you may not see — LEDs are also saving baby sea turtles, increasing food production while decreasing the carbon footprint and breaking ground for the next generation of location-based apps. Here is a look at ten things you probably didn’t know about LEDs.

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1. LED light can measure brain activity

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Diffuse optical tomography (DOT) is a new non-invasive technique that relies on LEDs rather than magnets or radiation to study brain activity. Developed by scientists at the Washington Univeristy School of Medicine in St. Louis, DOT scans involve shining LED lights directly into the head of the subject to receive images of processes taking place in multiple regions and networks of the brain.

2. LEDs Make a Fashion Statement

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LEDs made their runway debut in Paris earlier this year in Swiss design house Akris’s Albert Kriemler’s ready-to-wear collection. The show included two long glimmering evening gowns and a suit with constellations of tiny LED lights. Kriemler is not the only designer to incorporate LEDs, however. Others such as Elizabeth Bigger and Kristin Niedliner have experimented with clothes that can display the wearer’s mood through sensors in the material that translate into multicolored light emitted by LEDs.

3. High-tech Halftime Shows

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The Super Bowl XLVIII Halftime Show featured Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers as well as 80,000 audience members wearing LED studded hats. The stadium was filled with 500 LED lights and 14 transmitters that synced to the music and hats of the people in the audience.

4. LEDs and Ice Instruments

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In the remote Swedish town of Luleå, near the Arctic Circle, there is an orchestra that uses only instruments made of ice and LEDs. From cellos and violins to a xylophone, American expatriate Tim Linhart makes the icy instruments each year for the orchestra to play in their igloo auditorium. LEDs are a perfect medium for lighting the fragile instruments because they do not emit heat, unlike traditional light bulbs.

5. LED Lights Save Lives of Sea Turtles

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When baby sea turtles first emerge from their eggs, they should make their way to the ocean by instinctively following the moonlight reflected off the water. However, in Florida, turtles are confused by the bright incandescent lights of hotels and restaurants along the beaches and often die as they mistake crawling toward civilization for crawling toward the moonlit ocean. Fortunately, certain LED lights operate at levels that do not attract sea turtles, and many properties that have switched to these new LED lights have seen a significant decrease in the number of baby turtle deaths.

And then there are the sea turtles that play with light sabers.

6. LEDs Benefit Indoor Farming

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The temperature and wavelengths of LED lights allow for better and more abundant growth of indoor plants without the use of pesticides. Chicago’s Green Sense Farms has taken advantage of LEDs to make the largest indoor commercial vertical farm in the United States. It is able to harvest its crops 26 times a year while using 85 percent less energy, 1/10th the amount of water, no pesticides or herbicides and can reduce the facility’s CO2 output by 2 tons each month.

7. LEDs Lit Up Sochi Olympics

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Since there was nothing of its kind already in existence in Sochi, Russia, prior to the 2014 Winter Olympics, the infrastructure used for the Games was built completely from scratch just for the occasion. This allowed organizers to focus on building sustainably, and as a result, LEDs provided the lighting for several key venues including the Fisht Olympic Stadium, Bolshoy Ice Dome, Shayba Arena and the Iceberg Skating Palace.

8. LEDs Are The New GPS

When you are indoors, walls and other obstructions prevent GPS chips inside smart phones from being able to tell where you are. Because of this, the next generation of location-based applications will rely on new technologies such as LEDs to determine the indoor location of a smartphone user. Philips, for example, is looking at one-way communication between networked LED-based luminaires and customers’ smartphones as well as an LED light fixture which would communicate a unique identifier to individuals with smartphones using tiny pulses of light.

9. Light Box Made of LEDs

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Emmanuel Lubezki, director of photography for the movie “Gravity,” invented a “Light Box” for filming scenes in the script in which lighting rapidly changed as primal forces whipped the characters around. The Light Box — more than 20 feet tall and over 10 feet wide — was made of 196 panels, each containing 4,096 LEDs. Panels could move to accommodate cameras and props while visual effects technicians piloting the software could instantaneously change any individual LED.

10. LEDs Rely on Sapphire

Another thing you may not realize is that the increasing applications for LEDs have come to fruition thanks to sapphire (the substrate, not the jewelry), which powers the majority of the world's green, blue, white and UV LEDs. With their environmentally-friendly, durable and energy efficient properties, LEDs are the future of lighting.