Blue and white gallium nitride-based light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are the backbone of new energy-efficient lighting systems. The efficiency of an LED white light bulb is 20 times that of a traditional incandescent bulb. The US government’s department of energy estimates in that country alone, the transition to LED lighting will save 261 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity by 2030, which will eliminate the need for more than 30 power plants of 1,000 megawatts (MW) each. That in turn will prevent the generation of about 185 million tonnes of carbon dioxide.
These breakthrough efficiencies also enable low-cost systems that couple LEDs and solar cells and provide illumination to millions of people in developing countries, who currently rely on toxic and dangerous kerosene-based light. This year’s Zayed Future Energy Prize recognizes the global impact of this technology on both the climate and the citizens of our planet. However, the impact of this technology is only now beginning to be realized.