Costs, quality, standards mean LED is yet to shine
The lack of common specifications, high development costs and substandard products are some of the obstacles keeping the LED market from truly taking off.
Some experts are confident the lighting device will, one day, become as dominant as fluorescent lamps, but it needs a crystal ball to tell when that will be.
'It is difficult to predict when LEDs will become competitive and popular and overcome the existing problems,' said Professor Ron Hui Shu-yuen, of the University of Hong Kong's department of electrical and electronic engineering.
Hui said among the LED's problems were the lack of an international specification for the colour temperature of the light.
Unlike the fluorescent tube, which was invented in the 1940s, there is no clear and proven standard adopted by all manufacturers.
'Manufacturers of LEDs in America, Japan, Europe and South Korea are insisting on their own specifications. Talks might be ongoing, but it will take time to arrive at a consensus,' Hui said.
The lack of a lighting standard means that a daylight-white LED could look different from brand to brand.
Another issue facing the LED, Hui said, is that most engineers fail to fully explore the lighting science of the new technology. For instance, the brightness of LEDs starts to decline after reaching a certain amount of power.
This explains why some LEDs failed to reach the specified brightness levels claimed by manufacturers. Hui has developed a theory to explain the phenomenon, and won an international award for it. The theory identifies how light, heat and power interact. He hopes this will lay the foundation for lighting engineers to optimise their LED products.
A spokeswoman for Optiled, a Hong Kong-based LED developer and manufacturer, said the relative sluggishness of the LED market could be a result of substandard products.
'Some people might have bad experiences using these poorly designed products,' she said. LED lights had to be provided with the right drivers, chip sets, and heat sink if they were to attain their minimum estimated lifespan of 35,000 hours and generate the energy savings projected for them, she said.
She said LEDs cost more to buy than conventional bulbs and compact fluorescent lamps because a lot of money had gone into their research, development and design and because the royalties for the use of core technology such as the chip sets were high.