Could LED Grow Lights Help to Solve World Hunger?

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    Oct 18, 2012
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Due to high energy costs and environmental concerns, the energy efficiency of lighting systems is increasingly significant. Thanks to its energy-conserving properties, solid-state lighting looks to be the best option for most consumers. White LEDs are already popular for general lighting purposes and coloured or monochromatic LEDs are commonly used in automotive, entertainment and architectural applications. 

Because monochromatic LEDs produce a lot of light at particular wavelengths, they show promise for a wider range of purposes than is now common. Areas that could benefit from the use of monochromatic LED lights include aquarium environments, wildlife-friendly outdoor lighting and indoor gardening. 

Plants need light to photosynthesise. Specific wavelengths in the light spectrum affect different facets of plant development, including size, flowering, vegetation and germination. Naturally, other environmental conditions also affect plant growth, such as temperature, soil and water. Growing plants in a greenhouse allows for finer control of the environment, making it possible to grow plants in a location or season when they would not normally flourish. 

Since they are not out in the sunlight, it is very important to provide greenhouse plants with the right type and amount of artificial light. Some benefits of artificial light in a greenhouse include growing plants on multiple levels, lighting them from underneath so more plants can fit in the greenhouse and creating summer-like conditions even in winter. 

For the most part, chloroplasts in the leaves are responsible for photosynthesis. Green chlorophyll, beta-carotene and a few other pigments are grouped inside the chloroplasts and carry out the chemical process of photosynthesis. Each different pigment absorbs a specific light wavelength and transfers the energy to the chlorophyll. Chlorophyll molecules mostly absorb light from the blue and red parts of the spectrum. 

HPS (high-pressure sodium), MH (metal-halide) and compact-fluorescent lights are all used in greenhouses. Though HPS lamps seem energy efficient, they mostly produce light in the yellow-orange range instead of blue or red. Thus, the majority of the light emitted by HPS bulbs goes to waste. HPS lamps also create quite a bit of heat, necessitating additional expenditures to keep the greenhouse at a reasonable temperature. MH and compact-fluorescent bulbs emit a fair amount of blue light but almost none in the red wavelengths. 

Greenhouse horticulture is likely to become an important factor in food production as the world’s population continues to expand. While LED Grow Lights may not be the ultimate answer to world hunger, they could be an important part of the solution. LED Grow Lights are composed of LEDs in the particular wavelengths most needed for photosynthesis and are therefore ideal for promoting plant growth. 

LED Grow Lights are also more energy efficient than any other type of grow lights. Like general-lighting LEDs, LED Grow Lights have a longer life than most other bulbs, which lowers their operating cost. LED Grow Lights also have the unique advantage of being “tune-able” to provide the ideal amount of light for specific types of plants.

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