Meet the new light bulb that lasts 20 years and uses one-tenth the power

In lighting, the future lies with the LED. It consumes almost no power at all, and lasts practically forever. Compact fluorescent lamps are going to be obsolete very soon.

In the USA, they're coming soon; lights that last more than 20 years and use 90 per cent less electricity than even the 'new' compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs). They are called light emitting diodes (LEDs), and we already know about them; they are used for digital clocks and on car dashboards and blinker indicators.

But new advances in technology are making them useful for everything, from overhead lighting to desk lamps. The much-anticipated New Years Eve's ball in Times Square in New York will be lighted with LEDs this year.

LEDs, which are semiconductors that convert electricity into light, cost more than CFLs. But they are growing in popularity nonetheless, because advanced semiconductor technology has made them much brighter than in the past. They also consume much less power and are perceived as 'greener' than other lighting on the market.

Lighting is one of the simplest and most effective ways to lower electricity consumption. Lighting accounts for 20 per cent of the electricity consumed worldwide. In developing countries like India, that figure can go up to nearly 40 per cent in some areas.

LEDs last about 20 to 50 times longer than regular incandescent light bulbs. While CFLs have a longer life span then traditional light bulbs, they contain mercury, which is linked to cancer, leukemia and autism, and aren't recycled properly. Not surprisingly, we will soon see lots of LED lamps, overhead lighting and even bulbs in the stores.