Comptes Rendus
LEDs: the new revolution in lighting / Les LED : la nouvelle révolution de l'éclairage
Historical perspective on the physics of artificial lighting
Comptes Rendus. Physique, Volume 19 (2018) no. 3, pp. 89-112.

We describe the evolution of lighting technologies used throughout the ages, and how the need for improvements was such that any new technology giving better and cheaper lighting was immediately implemented. Thus, every revolution in energy sources – gas, petrol electricity – was first put to large-scale use in lighting. We describe in some detail several “ancient” techniques of scientific interest, along with their physical limitations. Electroluminescence – the phenomenon by which LEDs directly convert electricity into light – was long thought to only be of use for indicators or flat panel displays supposed to replace the bulky cathode-ray tubes. The more recent uses of LEDs were mainly for street traffic lights, car indicators, small phone displays, followed by backlighting of TV screens. LED lamps for general lighting only emerged recently as the dominant application of LEDs thanks to dramatic decrease in cost, and continuous improvements of color quality and energy conversion efficiency.

Nous décrivons l'évolution des technologies d'éclairage utilisées à travers les âges, et comment le besoin d'améliorations était tel que toute nouvelle technologie donnant un éclairage meilleur et moins cher a été immédiatement mise en œuvre. Ainsi, chaque révolution en matière de sources d'énergie – gaz, pétrole, électricité – a été dans un premier temps utilisée à grande échelle dans l'éclairage. Nous décrivons en détail plusieurs techniques anciennes présentant un intérêt scientifique, ainsi que leurs limites physiques. L'électroluminescence – le phénomène par lequel les LED convertissent directement l'électricité en lumière – a longtemps été considérée comme étant uniquement utile pour les indicateurs ou les écrans plats censés remplacer les tubes cathodiques volumineux. Les utilisations les plus récentes des LED concernaient principalement les feux de signalisation, les indicateurs pour voitures, les écrans de téléphone, suivies par le rétroéclairage des écrans de télévision. Les lampes LED pour l'éclairage général ne sont apparues que récemment, comme leur application dominante grâce à une réduction spectaculaire des coûts et à des améliorations continues de la qualité des couleurs et de l'efficacité de la conversion d'énergie.

Published online:
DOI: 10.1016/j.crhy.2018.03.001
Keywords: Lighting, Light-emitting diodes, Gas mantle, Lamps, Light sources
Mot clés : Éclairage, Diodes électroluminescentes, Manchon à gaz, Lampes, Sources lumineuses

Claude Weisbuch 1, 2

1 Materials Department, University of California at Santa Barbara, USA
2 Laboratoire de physique de la matière condensée, CNRS, École polytechnique, Palaiseau, France
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Claude Weisbuch. Historical perspective on the physics of artificial lighting. Comptes Rendus. Physique, Volume 19 (2018) no. 3, pp. 89-112. doi : 10.1016/j.crhy.2018.03.001.

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