Local News

Triangle Company Leads The Way With LED Light

Posted March 13, 2002

— Motorists on their morning commutes are controlled by traffic signals. Older signals use bulbs, but newer ones are brighter and use much less electricity because they are lit by light-emitting diodes or LEDs.

The ultra-bright signals are powered by dozens of LEDs. Durham-based

Cree Inc.

makes the tiny chips that power the ights.

Cree CEO Charles Swoboda said LEDs make light without the heat-producing filaments used in normal bulbs.

"An LED has the ability to take the electricity coming through it and convert those electrons into photons, which is what you and I know as light," he said.

About 800 people work in Cree's laboratories. Red and green LEDs have been around for years. The missing link was a blue LED, and Cree solved the problem.

Red, blue and green, when combined, make white light, but Swoboda said Cree has an additional solution.

"More importantly, blue and our UV chip can be used in conjunction with a phosphor to make any color in that manner as well," he said.

Nine tiny chips at just 10 watts put out lots of white light with a spotlight effect. Swoboda said LEDs probably will not replace household bulbs, but they will be used for speciality lighting.

"It's not just brightness. We can do it where it consumes less energy and the lifetime goes up by a factor of 10," he said.

Cree's LEDs can be found in Volkswagen and Audi dashboards, backlighting cell phones and in key chain lights. The company is also developing a blue laser for the next generation of DVD players.

"Your DVD player, a few years from now, won't just hold one movie, but it could hold one high definition movie," Swoboda said.


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