Thursday, 08 September 2011 13:36
September 8, 2011
Energy experts have hailed the light-emitting diode (LED) as the future of lighting. Citing LEDs' improved energy efficiency and longer lifespan, many analysts project LED adoption to surge over the coming years. Aside from the increasing number of homeowners who have begun to replace antiquated incandescent light bulbs with LEDs, scientists are employing the technology in more and more of their designs.
LEDs are based upon semiconductor technology, and have actually been around for more than 40 years. However, only within the past decade have they become a popular light bulb choice as businesses recognized the need for a durable and energy efficient alternative to the incandescent.
The federal government is mandating home and business owners phase out incandescent light bulbs over the coming years. In January of next year, the first portion of the comprehensive energy efficiency bill passed in 2007 by the government is slated to take effect. The legislation effectively bars companies from selling 100-watt incandescent light bulbs at first; a ban on 75-watt incandescent light bulbs will follow, and then lower wattage incandescent light bulbs will ultimately be done away with as well.
While they serve as an optimal light for the home, LED technology is widely applicable and researchers are using them in an increasing number of products. According to a report from New Scientist, researchers in Sweden working at BAE Systems, a maker of defense equipment, are using LEDs in a manner seemingly out of a science fiction movie.
BAE Systems is developing a tank camouflage system that, company scientists assert, will be capable of effectively shielding the massive piece of military equipment from detection. What's more, the technology will not only enable troops to go unseen to the naked eye, but also allow them to avoid detection by thermal-sensing equipment. LEDs are a critical component in the system, the researchers said.
Tanks were initially developed for battlefields when they were introduced by the British in World War I. They are highly effective in expansive spaces and are nearly unstoppable, military analysts affirm.
However, over the past decade fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan has largely been centered in the countries' large cities, as enemy combatants have successfully driven troops away from the desert regions, according to a report from USA Today. Tanks are less effective under such conditions, as fighters are able to exploit weaknesses in their armor, retired Army General Montgomery Meigs affirmed.
"In classic armored warfare, you bypass the cities," the general said. Outside of open spaces, "it's a completely different ballgame," where a combatant "can get a lot closer to you, and he can get behind you and above you."
To better protect troops increasingly fighting in urban environments, BAE researchers have worked to outfit them with improved camouflage systems. That's where LEDs have proven to be a critical component, according to company officials.
The camouflage system, which also enables tanks to disguise themselves as a cow, functions by first recording images of the tank's surroundings using two side-mounted "bug-eyed" cameras. The digital devices are comprised of nine smaller cameras and provide a wide field of vision.
The information captured by the cameras is then channeled to displays built into the outer surface of the tank's armor. Such displays are made of organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs), and they are charged with projecting the image onto a screen that is embedded within the tank's armor.
Scientists said they are still working to solve a few problems that have plagued their research, including how to cover up a tank's tracks and better conceal its roof. However, LEDs are providing a picture that is so believable, a passerby would mistake a vehicle weighing thousands of pounds for a cow – or nothing at all.
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