Today’s consumer can choose from incandescent, fluorescent, and solid-state lighting. The science behind each drives their performance.

Currently, consumers have three options: incandescents, fluorescent bulbs, and the new kid on the block, solid-state lighting from light emitting diodes (LEDs). But incandescent bulbs are on their way out. The European Union and the United States have both enacted regulations on lighting energy usage that will eventually ban most traditional incandescent bulbs. Governments have nothing against old-fashioned light bulbs — except that a large percentage of the energy utilized by the bulbs use does not create light! The inefficiency of incandescent bulbs has very little to do with how well they’re made; it’s due to the fundamental physics involving light.

At the heart of each lighting method is the same basic process: an electron gets rid of energy, emitting a tiny amount of light. The color of the light depends upon the amount of energy the electron gives off; blue light has higher energy than red. Different light sources are distinguished by the different ways they put energy into electrons and the different way the energy comes out of the electrons.

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Originally published at Suite101, 29 MAR 2011