High-WPE photons for Christmas

Dec. 3, 2013
We all know that those tiny little strings of super-efficient LED lights are practically the norm to trim your Christmas tree, but how about a fiber-optic Christmas tree, or even an OLED Christmas tree?
Gail Overton 720

We all know that those tiny little strings of super-efficient LED lights are practically the norm to trim your Christmas tree, unless you haven't been to the store lately and are still using the bulky colored incandescent bulb strings from the 1960s. But how about a fiber-optic Christmas tree, or even an OLED Christmas tree? Yes, they are all environmentally friendly, high wall-plug-efficiency (WPE) choices to illuminate this holiday season (well, maybe, except the OLED).

In 2006, the Capitol Christmas Tree in Washington, DC was illuminated 100% with LEDs. LED-based Christmas tree lights put on a heck of a display (see below for a white-LED-lit artificial tree from Balsam Hill), and according to eHow.com, a price and energy usage breakdown by Consumer Reports showed that mini-sized LED bulbs were found to incur 30 cents over a period of 300 hours, while the same length of mini-sized incandescent lights used $1.30 over the same period of time (a more than four-fold increase); for C9-sized bulbs, three strands of LED were found to cost only 14 cents over 300 hours while two strands of the same-sized incandescent lights cost $11--a whopping energy and cost savings!

The eHow report also said that all bulbs on the LED strands were still lit after 4000 hours, while every strand of incandescent bulbs had at least one or two bulbs that had burnt out before reaching the 2000-hour mark. And thankfully, the lack of heat created by these LED strings is a tremendous safety improvement over those old hot lights that were the cause of many a tree fire (and way better than the candles used in victorian times).

The selection of fiber-optic Christmas trees is getting better and better every year. Amazon has this color-changing six-foot beauty (see below) for just $135. The close-up shows how optical fibers are embedded throughout the faux needles of the tree.

I can understand why, after GE's Niskayuna, NY facility unveiled the first OLED Christmas tree back in 2008, why we aren't seeing OLED trees in the store. Simply because the flat form factor doesn't lend itself to trimming a tree (see below)! Still I can also understand that the researchers developing OLEDs probably thought it was the most beautiful tree ever.

Not only is photonics adding a great deal of beauty to our world this Christmas season, but it's also saving critical energy at the same time. So deck the halls with high-WPE photons this holiday and celebrate photonics as one of the reasons for the season!

About the Author

Gail Overton | Senior Editor (2004-2020)

Gail has more than 30 years of engineering, marketing, product management, and editorial experience in the photonics and optical communications industry. Before joining the staff at Laser Focus World in 2004, she held many product management and product marketing roles in the fiber-optics industry, most notably at Hughes (El Segundo, CA), GTE Labs (Waltham, MA), Corning (Corning, NY), Photon Kinetics (Beaverton, OR), and Newport Corporation (Irvine, CA). During her marketing career, Gail published articles in WDM Solutions and Sensors magazine and traveled internationally to conduct product and sales training. Gail received her BS degree in physics, with an emphasis in optics, from San Diego State University in San Diego, CA in May 1986.

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