Have you ever wondered “When was LED lighting Invented?” Well the answer may surprise you...LEDs have been around for more than half a century! In fact, a viable working version of LED technology first came out in 1962. It was invented by 33 year old General Electric scientist Nick Holonyak Jr. Back then, GE called it “the magic one.” Really! On the back of Holonyak’s original device is inscribed: “The magic one, GaAsP."
GaAsP (Gallium Arsenide Phosphide) is the semiconducting material that was used in the first LED. According to Holonyak, GaAsP was “the material that became the red LED that everyone saw on the elevators and everywhere else.” He added, “They still probably make them because they’re so damn cheap!” Here is a great video from General Electric reflecting on the gradual implementation of LED technology starting in the 1960s:
Holonyak recognized the potential of LED lighting technology right away: “If I can generate that kind of light electronically, that is powerful enough and good enough to run as a laser, this is going to become an LED that covers the spectrum.” It seems the biggest surprise is how long it has taken LED technology to take hold in the lighting industry. Let’s take a brief look at the iterations LED lighting technology has gone through in the decades since!
Early LED Technology (LED 1.0 = 1960s):
LEDs got their start as indicator lights for circuit boards and small electrical equipment. Early specimens were very durable, had a relatively low lumens output, and accordingly were very energy efficient.
LEDs Gaining Traction (LED 2.0 = 1980s):
Over time LEDs have become brighter and more reliable. Second generation LED technology included the ability to string multiple LEDs into a single circuit. Over time, LEDs became more suitable for outdoor use. Accordingly, they were exponentially adopted by municipalities as a replacement for incandescent bulbs in traffic lights. LEDs also saw limited success replacing fluorescent bulbs and neon in lighted signs.
LED Technology Today (LED 3.0 = 21st Century):
Today’s LED technology is used extensively for commercial, industrial, and residential applications. LEDs’ capabilities have increased across the board: increases in lifespan, increases in brightness (performance), and increases in energy efficiency. The greatly expanded use of LED technology has led to the development of warranties, industry best practices, and the introduction of government programs and standards.