Friday, July 18, 2008

JJNN Friday: Technology - 02

Welcome again to JJNN for Friday July 17th, 2008. Today I will be looking at another form of new light bulb technology.

It seems that lately a lot of Japan's biggest innovations in technology are in the lightly department. Information on the latest type of new light bulb can be found here. Yesterday Toshiba technologies announced that they have come out with a LED lightbulb. LED stands for Light Emitting Diode and you probably know LEDs from things like old toys or signs that use many points of lights to spell something out.

LEDs are just like any other diode. A diode is an electronic device that lets electric current flow in one direction and blocks it from flowing in the other direction. This may not sound like an important device, but diodes have been developed to do so many important things. A few examples are radio demodulation (which allows us to listen to radio signals), disallowing current into certain parts of a circuit at certain times, and measuring temperature. So, you may be asking yourself what this has to do with lights. Well, it turns out that when the diodes are made out of certain materials they give of light when current is applied to them. The type of light depend on physical makeup of the diode. Different materials glow different colors when current is pushed though them.

The first LED that produced light that could be seen with the naked eye was red. After that many other colors were produced, but no one could figure out how to make a white light. After the first blue LED was produced by some Japanese scientists, it was possible to produce a white LED. Yellow and blue were combined to produce the long sought after white light. We may think of white light as normal, but it was extremely hard to produce a white LED.

So, using the white LED technology, Toshiba decided to make a white LED lightbulb. You can see a picture of two types of the bulbs below.

The first think you will probably notice is that they look a little strange, but the bottom of the bulbs are just like normal bulbs. That means that you can screw one of these bulbs into a normal light socket and use it like a normal light. There is no other special equipment needed. That would be a good thing.

Let's talk about the good part before we talk about the bad part. This light bulb will last a long long time. It has an expected lifetime of 20000 hours. That is just under 2 and a half years. This means that you can keep this light on for 2 and a half years and it probably won't burn out. Also, this bulb consumes one eighth the energy of a normal lightbulb. This is a good thing because it leads to less carbon dioxide being pumped into the atmosphere from power plants.

Now the bad point of the lightbulb. It is costly. One of the 100W bulbs will cost about 15000 yen, or about 150USD. My wallet says "ouch". I am all for saving the environment and giving myself a lower electricity bill in the process, but that is just crazy. I could buy much more than 2 years worth of bulbs for that. Maybe Toshiba will find a way to produce the bulbs at a lower price, because I don't see many people buying them if they don't.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 時間(じかん). It is pronounced jikan and means time. This was probably one of the first Japanese words that I have ever learnt. I hope that you all remember it for possible use later.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

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