We see them in use every day; from our high definition televisions, to the lights on our Christmas trees – LED lights. However what may seem to be a “new” invention to many of us, LED lighting has in fact, a relatively long history from a technical perspective.
Starting back in 1907, H.L. Round, who was an assistant to the famous inventor, Guglielmo Marconi, wrote and published a short article about some of his experimental discoveries. While working with carborndum (silicon carbide), and cat whiskers (yes, cat whiskers), he was able to detect a “bright glow”. While interesting, Round never published a follow-up article on the subject, and therefore the discovery lay dormant for many years.
Then starting in 1924, a Russian named Oleg Vladimirovich Losev became the first person to do extensive and substantial research on LED lights. Interestingly enough Losev did not have any kind of “formal” education, and had not even heard of Round’s earlier work, not of his publication on the topic.
Losev noticed that in radio receivers, there were light emissions being produced when a current was passed through the diodes, and Losev identified the exact same compound that Rounds had used nearly twenty years earlier as a light-emitting diode. Unfortunately, Losev never got to see his work put into any kind of practical applications because he died in the siege of Leningrad, in World War Two, from starvation.
In part two we take a further look at the history of LED lighting.