Dear Colleagues

Thanks for your comments on my blog, including those chastising me! I try to respond to everyone that mails me and where possible I put your comments up onto the site.

Don’t forget another in our series of complimentary 45 min. webinars (no sales spiel) entitled; “Major disasters in engineering and technical marketing (and how to avoid them)” on Wed 14th May (as detailed below).

1.0 The LED knocks out incandescence big time

If you’re like me; you’re probably a little irritated by the demise of incandescent bulbs. In search of lower energy consumption (lighting takes up 20% of the world’s electricity) they are being replaced with the expensive compact fluorescent lights (CFLs). Europe will phase out incandescents by 2012, America by 2014 and Australia has already given them the flick. Thomas Edison created the first incandescent bulb in 1879 using a wire filament encased in glass. They were initially hopelessly inefficient - (5% energy to light) and then needed replacing every 1000 hours or so. Back to today - the cheapest replacement is the compact fluorescent light (CFL) which uses 75% less power, lasts ten times longer, but costs a heck of a lot more (6 to ten times). CFLs use electricity to excite mercury vapour, which creates UV light causing the phosphor coating inside the bulb to glow. There are some safety concerns with the use of CFLs, however; the flickering effect of some CFLs, the leakage of UV from some of the poorly manufactured ones and the disposal of mercury. (I wonder; how many of us are hoarding incandescent bulbs)

There is a great alternative; Light Emitting Diodes (or LEDs). They have a lower energy usage, a longer lifetime, are smaller and more robust, but require more precise current and heat management. Energy savings are up to 80%, but they cost $US60 or more! They were invented by Oleg Losev in the 1920’s. You will no doubt recall them as dimly lit, simple red indicators on electronic panels. They have now morphed into torches and streetlights and more. As you may know; a LED is made up of two layers of semi-conductor – an n-type (lots of electrons) and a p-type (lots of holes – or an absence of electrons). When a voltage is applied across the junction, the holes and electrons meet up and release light – an effect called electroluminescence. Breakthroughs, such as the use of Gallium Nitride which creates bright-blue LEDs, promise to reduce costs significantly. At present these are deposited on sapphire wafers, but when these can be replaced with silicon, dramatically lower costs will result.

Some positive progress has been made - low cost LEDs can be applied to solar powered reading lights, in the poorer areas of the world, allowing children to do their homework in the evenings without using candles.

There is an enormous amount of development in this area; so tread cautiously as you sift through the emerging lighting information - and follow James Thurber’s exhortation: “There are two kinds of light--the glow that illuminates, and the glare that obscures”.

Thanks to Wikipedia, Cambridge University, The Economist and Philips for background reading.

2. Major Disasters in Engineering and Technical Marketing (and How to Avoid them) webinar on 14th May

This complimentary 45 minute webinar aims to illustrate the perils of marketing so that engineers and technicians can develop greater awareness of the potential for real product disasters. It is to be presented by Terry Cousins, a professional engineer who has set up a remarkable worldwide business designing and manufacturing electronic test equipment.  We look at 5 different, but famous, marketing campaigns from recent history and consider the lessons that can be learnt from them. One of the crucial questions to be considered - Is innovation enough to guarantee market success?  This live webinar will provide us with lots to think about in an entertaining format…….. and enable you to boost the sales of your products and services! Registration page at

Yours in engineering learning