The benefits of engineered light

By Neal Singer

Photography By Randy Montoya

Thursday, January 03, 2019

Engineered light could improve health and food, Nature paper suggests

Jeff Tsao
TAKING THE LID OFF LED LIGHT — In a recent paper, Jeff Tsao and his co-authors say that controlled lighting at LED wavelengths and intensities has nearly unlimited potential for social and scientific advances.

People who believe light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, are just an efficient upgrade to the Edison lightbulb are stuck in their thinking, suggest Sandia researcher Jeff Tsao and colleagues in a Nature Perspectives article published in late November.

“LED lighting is only in its infancy,” the authors write. “We now stand at the threshold of what might be called engineered light.”

Light intentionally controlled in time, space and spectral content can reward not just human optics with better lighting but also can help regulate human health and productivity by eliciting various hormonal responses.

Moreover, in the plant kingdom, the authors say, tailored LED wavelengths and intensities can efficiently stimulate plant growth, alter their shapes and increase their nutritional value, opening a new world of scientific and technological possibilities for indoor farming.

“That’s not to ignore the integration of LEDs with the internet of things,” Jeff says, “which is already happening with LED integration with elec­tronics, sensors and communications.”

The inevitable broadening of LED usage could add value to society far greater than the energy saved in lighting homes and buildings, the authors say.

The research was supported by the Department of Energy’s Solid State Lighting Program.