How do LEDs Work: The Science of Saving Money In Your Dome
The great thing about domes is that they help reduce energy and carbon footprints. Bubbles do this by reducing the materials needed for an indoor facility, and making maximum use of available space. Another way that air structures help the environment is with LED lights.
We’ve talked about LED lights before, including why they haven’t seen much use until now, and why they seem to be popping up everywhere now, but today we’re taking a step back, putting back on our science hats, and looking at how LED lights work.
To begin to understand LEDs, we should go back to basics and look at how electricity works. Electricity is movement of energy. When a charge exists, it means that there is more energy in one area than there is in another. If given the opportunity, this charge will flow in the direction of least resistance.
You can think of it in the same way you think of water. If you have a bucket of water and pour it on the ground, it will flow in the direction of gravity, taking the path of least resistance. Water will flow in, or create, a groove that demonstrates this path of least resistance.
Electricity is much the same and flows from a high-energy area to a low energy area in the simplest path. When electric current is able to flow well through something, that material is known as a conductor. If a material stops the flow of electricity, it is an insulator. Simple, right?
Well there also exists another type of material that isn’t quite a conductor and isn’t quite an insulator. A material can appear to be an insulator until the current increases to such a point where it becomes a conductor. Materials that have a tipping point like this are called semi-conductors.
LEDs are made using a special semi-conductor materials called p-type and n-type silicon.
Using this principle of semiconductors, the two types of silicon can be combined to create what is called a junction diode. Simply put, a semiconductor diode allows conduction in one way and when the current reaches a certain point, the electrons activate a release of energy.
What’s unique about LEDs is that this release of energy is pretty much only in the form of photons, or light. This means that no energy is lost as heat, sound, or movement.
Makes sense? If not, here’s a pretty good link that explains it in a bit more detail.
As far as dome owners need to know, LED lights are bright and use up much less electricity than typical lights. While domes are naturally relatively easy to light up because of the shape and white colour of the inside walls, sports like soccer and ultimate Frisbee need lots of light. The closer we can get to the brightness of the outdoors during the day, the better it is for athletes to focus on their sport.
That’s why LEDs are the only way to go. By being brighter, lighter, and smaller than other types of lights, it’s possible to light up your dome as much as possible, without spending more money.