You’ve probably never thought of “light pollution” before – but current traditional streetlamp designs are guilty of this. They “leak” large amounts of their light energy in unwanted directions making it actually harder for drivers to see clearly. They also obscure our view of the night sky. But a team from Mexico and Japan has designed a new LED-powered (light-emitting diode) streetlamp that could drastically reduce the amounts of wasted light.
The team believes that their solution is probably the best one available – although they have yet to create a working prototype. Their study and research data – compiled and researched by scientists in Mexico and Taiwan – has been published in the open-access journal Optics Express. According to the team, traditional street lights – which utilize high-pressure sodium or mercury – waste up to 20 percent of their energy horizontally or vertically as it is difficult to control the light beams. LEDs are easier to direct because light is being produced from a smaller area. Conventional lamps also used polished aluminum as reflectors to make the streetlamp brighter, but this method is very inaccurate. The team used lenses to make their LED streetlamps more accurate, pushing almost all of their light into the direction it needs to point to, reducing the amount of wasted light to just over 2 percent. The result is more light on the road, but less going vertically or horizontally, leaving you a great view of the stars and the night sky – provided that the stars are still visible in your city (that points to another kind of pollution). The researchers suggest that the new solution would also save on electricity costs as it requires between 10 and 50% less power to illuminate a section of road than current streetlamps. The team hopes to have a working prototype completed by October.
London-based light design firm Speirs and Major also unveiled a LED-based streetlamp of its own last year. Andrew Howis, associate director of the firm, acknowledges that this new study just confirms the transition to LED lighting. “(The new study) sounds like an advance on what is already available, but of itself is not revolutionary. The change from conventional light sources to LED is the revolution,” Howis said. “As a result of LEDs, it is now possible to place light exactly where it is needed and to greatly reduce spill light and energy wastage,” he added. An England lobby group called The Campaign to Protect Rural England also affirms the new study, although it says that governments should take the step and invest in the new technology. “From 1993 to 2000, light pollution in England increased by 26%, which shows the huge amount of energy and money wasted,” said campaigner Emma Marrington. “It should be seen as an investment for local authorities to install more efficient street lighting, which will save money and energy waste in the long-term,” she concluded.
[via BBC News]
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