LED Lighting Set to Replace Mercury-Filled Tubes

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New Zealand manufacturer develops high-impact lighting alternative for point-of-sale, advertising, merchandising and store illumination.

LED lighting, in addition to being more energy efficient, provides a zero-mercury alternative in an extremely wide range of manufacturing and commercial applications.

A New Zealand-based developer of LED lighting applications is forecasting the end of the incandescent light bulb within just a few years, based on advances in manufacturing technology and the demand for zero mercury in lamps and lighting tubes.

ScreenSign Arts (http://www.screensignarts.co.nz) says even the compact fluorescent design, a popular energy saving device in recent years, is approaching the end of its design life.

The company believes the future of illumination is the Light Emitting Diode (LED), and it has invested accordingly in a number of novel applications using Photometric Edge Lighting. These are produced mainly for export as components for offshore manufacturers.

Managing Director Richard Hunter says concern about mercury levels is a major driver of demand for LED-based illumination for commercial use, including Point-of-Sale displays and merchandising. "While the mercury content of fluorescent lamps has been reduced, these lamps still present a problem when it comes to collection and safe disposal at the end of their life cycle," Hunter says.

A fluorescent tube is a gas-discharge lamp that uses electricity to excite mercury vapor in argon or neon gas, resulting in a plasma that produces short-wave ultraviolet light. This light then causes the phosphor to fluoresce, producing visible light.

By contrast, an LED is basically a semi-conductor. When energy passes through two electron-charged materials, electrons jump from one material to the other. As an electron jumps, it emits energy in the form of a photon. The color of light created by a given LED depends on the amount of energy in that photon. This, in turn, depends on the material used for the layers. LEDs contain no mercury.

Health Risks from Exposure to Mercury:

  •     Mercury is a neurotoxin (toxic to the nervous system). The greatest risk is to the developing fetus, through exposure to methylmercury. Dietary methylmercury is almost completely absorbed into the blood and distributed to all tissues including the brain. The neurotoxic effects include subtle loss in motor skills and sensory ability at comparatively low doses, to tremors, inability to walk, convulsions and death at extremely high exposures. (Source: US EPA Mercury Study, Report to Congress, December 1997).
  •     Mercury accumulates efficiently in the aquatic and marine environments. The main dietary pathway for mercury exposure is from eating fish, with bigger fish accumulating more mercury. In New Zealand, it is recommended that consumers eat a serving of the larger fish species (including marlin, shark, broadbill and sword fish) no more than once a fortnight. (Source: Food Standards Australia New Zealand March 2004).
  •     Industrial demand for mercury in the US declined by 75 per cent between 1988 and 1996. Most emissions occur when solid waste or fuel is burnt. In the United States, there are regulations governing the collection and reprocessing of fluorescent tubes. In New Zealand there are some recycling services available to businesses, but few options for households.

Richard Hunter says with mercury being so mobile in the environment, there is likely to be continuing pressure to eliminate this metal from the waste stream. "Mercury can be emitted in one location as a solid, convert to a vapor, and be deposited in water or soil elsewhere. The message from regulators around the world is that manufacturers must look at the opportunities to deal with mercury during the product life-cycle, rather than just at the point of disposal."

"LED lighting, in addition to being more energy efficient, provides a zero-mercury alternative in an extremely wide range of manufacturing and commercial applications."

About Photometric Edge Lighting
Photometric Edge Lighting uses a pre-designed dot matrix applied to one surface of clear acrylic sheet, resulting in an even distribution of light across the sheet's surface. It provides highly efficient illumination with strong visual impact for point-of-sale devices, shelving and merchandising displays.

About ScreenSign Arts Ltd
ScreenSign Arts is the South Island's largest provider of screen printing services. Established in 1972, the company has remained at the forefront of the industry through continuous development of new products and the application of technologies for innovative printing, signwriting and visual presentations. (http://www.screensignarts.co.nz)

Further information:        
Richard Hunter
Managing Director
ScreenSign Arts Ltd
Phone 0064 3 389 3035
Mobile 021 770 007

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