To fully understand the history of LED lights, let us step back a little bit and try to gain a clearer picture, through a literary definition of course, and find out what ‘LED’ means. ‘LED’ stands for ‘Light Emitting Diode.’
An LED is a light emitting diode that, well, emits light. Seems simple, right? It only shines when it is connected directly to an electric current, and it works on the property of electroluminescence. They have extremely low power consumption when compared to the traditional light bulb (which, by the way, was invented about a hundred or so years prior) which works similarly. They also last much longer.
In the year 1907, an English inventor and scientist by the name of Henry Joseph Round discovered something extraordinary. He realized that whenever a ten-volt current was applied to ‘carborundum,’ it emits a yellowish light! Carborundum is also known scientifically as silicon carbide, for you science-heads out there reading this.
In the very same year, 1907, a Russian scientist named Oleg Vladimirovich Losev discovered it as well! In the year 1927, about two decades after it was created, Oleg decided to publish the first scientific text on LEDs. For many decades, though, no progress was made. Any and all possible scientific research was geared to chemical, explosive, atomic and nuclear weapons from the time of the First World War (The ‘Great’ War, as it was known) to the Second World War.
However, two Americans from Texas University ‘rediscovered’ the fact that an infrared light emits when a current is sent through another block of carborundum. Later that year, the two scientists, having been named Gary Pittman and Bob Biard, filed for a patent on the supposedly ‘new’ technology.
At first, LED’s (light emitting diodes, to recap) was very expensive. This insane price was very unfortunate for the average person, as it meant that they were unusable to the public and this led to further development stopping for another decade and a half or so. Because of this high pricing, they were only used in government or highly advanced scientific or medical machinery and systems.
And then it happened, for better or for worse. A company by the name of Fairchild Semiconductors reduced the price of individual light emitting diodes (LED’s) to merely 5 CENTS! Yes, you heard me, a nickel a piece. He succeeded in doing this insane marginal price drop by finding a new and safer way to produce this new kind of light emitting diode.
Instead of the traditional form of creating them, he created a unique process to manufacture them. It involved using what is known as a planar process that was applied in the production of semiconductor chips to produce the light emitting diodes. By using this brand new and incredibly innovative process of creating and packaging them, Fairchild made the new ‘LED’ into a commercial product with a variety of applications. You have already seen the incredible variety of uses that LED’s have today, and can only fleetingly think of the amount of money that same company, Fairchild Semiconductors, must make in royalties today.