WHEB Commentary

Ted Franks

Tripping the light fantastic


When you run electric current through a tungsten filament in an incandescent light-bulb, you waste roughly nine times the energy transformed into light, as heat. And those old incandescent light-bulbs always need changing: each one lasts around three months at average usage.

By comparison, when you switch on a Compact Fluorescent Light (‘CFL’), it uses roughly one fifth of the energy of an incandescent of similar brightness, and will typically last two and half years.

But better still, light emitting diodes (‘LEDs’) waste virtually no energy as heat, and last approximately thirteen years at average usage. A genuine step-change in efficiency, but there is much more to LEDs than just saving money and resources.

Lights of different wavelengths create different effects on the people and things they shine on. Some of these differences we are not conscious of; those which we can see are described as ‘colour temperature’ and measure in units called Kelvins (‘K’). LEDs have a natural flexibility which not only means that they are capable of a wider range of wavelength and colour temperature, but even that individual LEDs can themselves change the type of light they produce.

The possibilities are truly fantastic; here are just a few:
‘Cold’ white lights are better for concentration than ‘warm’ yellowish lights, so schoolteachers will be able to start the day with an alert classroom. But warm lights calm the pupils down, so when home time approaches, the teacher can just dial up the warmth. Likewise, offices will be able to energise workers in the post-lunch lull. We could do with that here at WHEB!

In a similar vein, long-haul flights will be able to simulate the quality and phases of daylight more effectively, and ward off jetlag. Already the new Boeing Dreamliner will be equipped to do this.

As medical (and presumably, other) growers of marijuana have long known, being able to spectrally tune light allows farmers to optimise crop growth. Combine this with the low energy needs and robustness of LEDs, and there is potential for major yield improvements – and at scale.

Animal health too enjoys the right kind of light. This applies to food animals but also humans. Anyone with experience of a UK winter will be aware of the impact of light on mood and sleep patterns, but the power that these ‘circadian’ (daily) rhythm effects exert on long-term health is quite striking. And there is still more to this: the right type of light can have an astounding medical impact, ranging from treatment of jaundice to, possibly, reduction in some cancers.

The IM WHEB Sustainability Fund invests in Acuity Brands, an American light-maker that is at the front of the evolution into LEDs, and the new range of applications this technology makes possible. There are quite a few other names now emerging in LEDs, and with so much to play for, we’re looking to become more involved as the market grows.

Recent posts

  • This year’s new killer
  • Seeing the bigger picture – Cooper Companies and myopia
  • What does 2020 hold for sustainable investing?
  • Politics playing catch-up on climate change
  • The great smog; London’s dirty air
  • Lessons from Woodford
  • Varian and the changing nature of cancer care
  • The bigger picture; declaring a climate emergency
  • Better out of it: the price of oil politics
  • Greta gets clean away
  • Archive

  • February 2020 (2)
  • January 2020 (1)
  • December 2019 (1)
  • November 2019 (2)
  • October 2019 (3)
  • September 2019 (1)
  • August 2019 (2)
  • July 2019 (3)
  • June 2019 (2)
  • May 2019 (3)
  • April 2019 (1)
  • March 2019 (1)
  • February 2019 (2)
  • January 2019 (3)
  • December 2018 (1)
  • November 2018 (2)
  • October 2018 (4)
  • September 2018 (2)
  • August 2018 (4)
  • July 2018 (1)
  • June 2018 (1)
  • May 2018 (1)
  • April 2018 (2)
  • March 2018 (2)
  • February 2018 (1)
  • January 2018 (1)
  • December 2017 (3)
  • November 2017 (1)
  • July 2017 (3)
  • June 2017 (1)
  • May 2017 (1)
  • April 2017 (1)
  • February 2017 (2)
  • November 2016 (1)
  • August 2016 (1)
  • July 2016 (1)
  • June 2016 (1)
  • May 2016 (1)
  • April 2016 (2)
  • February 2016 (1)
  • December 2015 (1)
  • November 2015 (3)
  • October 2015 (1)
  • September 2015 (1)
  • July 2015 (2)
  • April 2015 (2)
  • February 2015 (2)
  • December 2014 (2)
  • November 2014 (3)
  • October 2014 (4)
  • August 2014 (1)
  • July 2014 (3)
  • June 2014 (1)
  • April 2014 (2)
  • March 2014 (2)
  • February 2014 (3)
  • January 2014 (4)
  • December 2013 (4)
  • October 2013 (5)
  • September 2013 (3)
  • July 2013 (4)
  • June 2013 (2)
  • May 2013 (4)
  • April 2013 (2)
  • March 2013 (4)
  • February 2013 (6)
  • January 2013 (2)
  • December 2012 (3)
  • November 2012 (1)
  • October 2012 (4)
  • September 2012 (2)
  • August 2012 (1)
  • July 2012 (3)
  • June 2012 (3)
  • May 2012 (6)
  • April 2012 (4)
  • March 2012 (5)