You may have noticed that there are many different types of lights surrounding you every day. In your table lamp at home, there may be a regular light bulb — what scientists call an incandescent bulb. There are many other types of lights, though, that contain LEDs.

LEDs — or light-emitting diodes — are found in all sorts of things. For example, the numbers on your digital clock are formed by LEDs. Your television remote control probably uses LEDs to send signals. LEDs can light up wristwatches and traffic lights. Your television might also be powered by LEDs!

But what exactly are LEDs? The science behind LEDs can get really complicated, but basically they’re like tiny light bulbs that are part of a simple electrical circuit. They’re different from regular light bulbs, though, because they don’t get very hot and they don’t have a filament that will burn out. These features make LEDs very popular for many products.

LEDs are illuminated by the movement of electrons across a semiconductor material, such as aluminum-gallium-arsenide (AlGaAs). The movement of the electrons causes the release of light, which can then be directed outward by the shape of the LED bulb.

Regular light bulbs often burn out after a few hundred hours of use (or less), but LEDs can last for thousands of hours. In fact, some LEDs can last 50,000 hours or more!

LEDs can also be very tiny. Their small size has helped television makers replace bulky tubes with LEDs, so that modern televisions can be nearly flat and very thin.

LEDs have many other advantages. For example, LEDs tend to be more durable than regular incandescent light bulbs. They also fit more easily into electric circuits. LEDs are much more efficient than regular light bulbs, since a higher percentage of the electrical power goes to generate light rather than heat.

The cost of semiconductor material can make LEDs more expensive than regular incandescent light bulbs. However, their efficiency, durability and extended life usually make them a much better bargain in the long run.

Although LEDs are all the rage these days, they’ve actually been around for a while. American Nick Holonyak, Jr., created the first LED in 1962.

56 Join the Discussion

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars  (35 votes, avg. 4.23 out of 5)
    • We LOVE that you enjoyed watching the athlete with LEDs as much as we did, Mrs. Bayko’s students! We think it takes a LOT of skill to make turns and keep your balance, but the boarder must have had a TON of practice! Thank you for sharing your guess for tomorrow’s Wonder– we can’t wait to start cookin’! :)

    • YIPPEE, we are so excited to Wonder with Ms. Clark’s class about LED lighting today! Thank you for joining the fun and watching the cool video that shows how bright these LEDs can be! We hope Ms. Clark’s students have a WONDERful day! :)

  1. I think the stories and the video that you guys put on the website are very interesting and I’m looking forward to coming to the website again soon. So good job to everyone. Love, Ms. Clarks class

    • We’re jumping for joy after reading your comment, Ms. Clark’s class! How WONDERful that you enjoy learning about new and exciting things at Wonderopolis! :)

      We can’t wait to Wonder with you tomorrow and use our imaginations together! Have a SUPER day! :)

  2. When he was surfing downhill, he made some good moves. That was cool how they made the suit light up with LED’s. We were surprised that the LED’s did not burn him! Great video!

    • We’re so happy you enjoyed today’s WONDERful video, PLVRoom8! We think it’s AWESOME how graceful the athlete is, and it’s COOL to watch him in lights, too! We believe that the people in the video took extra care to make sure no one would be harmed by the LED lights, too! Thanks for posting your comment today– we can’t wait to Wonder with you again! :)

  3. Hey guys!

    Great video today. By the way, your latest response today to Miss Clarks class is from 10:30, but my clock says 10:10. Strange. :/

    • Hey there, WONDERman, we are so glad that you enjoyed today’s Wonder about LEDs! We thought the surfer did a great job turning corners and maintaining balance– it looks like a tough job! Also, we love your keen observation about the time difference… perhaps one of our clocks was delayed! We hope you have a SUPER rest of the day! :)

  4. We all loved the video with the man surfing! Our favorite part was when we saw the lights shining through the glowing snow.

    We predict tomorrow’s wonder will be about: fried chicken or fried fish.

    • A big HELLO to all the WONDERful students in Ms. Moreland’s 3rd grade class! Thanks for joining the fun of WONDERing today! We are so excited you enjoyed watching the video and learning about those BRIGHT LEDs! We thought the surfer was pretty talented and adventurous!

      We can’t wait to find out what’s cooking in tomorrow’s Wonder– thanks for sharing your AWESOME guesses!! :)

  5. We loved watching the surfer dude with the LED lights. It was very bright. It was fun to learn about them. We can’t wait for tomorrow. Our guess is that we will be cooking eggs and bacon.

    • HOORAY! We are so excited that the students in Mrs. Valdez’s 5th grade class enjoyed WONDERing about LEDs with us today! It’s terrific that you learned something new and experienced the awesome surfer light up in the night! :)

      We think your guess is SMELLING GOOD– we can’t wait to cook up another Wonder with all of you tomorrow! :)

    • We’re sending a great big HELLO to all the WONDERful students in Mrs. Foster’s class! Thanks for posting such a great comment about LED lights today!!

      LED lights are everywhere, and they provide light in many of the electronics you use each day (such as your TV, alarm clock and even your computer screen). Just like other types of light, it is important to keep a safe distance from electronics, so you don’t harm or strain your eyes. If your parents ever warned you about sitting too close to the TV, they were just looking out for you and your vision! Letting your eyes take a break once in a while is important too. For people who spend many hours in front of a computer screen, it’s important to look away every 15 minutes or so and give their eyes a short rest.

      Thank you for WONDERing with us today– we can’t wait to do it again, Wonder Friends! :)

  6. You did not mention how LEDs can be better for the enviroment, as they use energy more efficiently. Because they last longer than incandescent bulbs, they also create much less electronic waste.
    Their small size may be convenient for televisions or other devices, but not for lightbulbs. That is why a fluorescent bulb is a good option for lighting.
    I think that tomorrow’s Wonder will be about eggs.

    • What a great point you’ve made, Tori! Not only do LEDs last longer, but they will reduce the amount of lightbulbs thrown away after they’ve burnt out! We are so grateful for AWESOME Wonder Friends like you– you are doing a SUPER job of researching and making informed decisions. Thanks for sharing your great connections to our Wonders of the Day! We can’t wait to cook up another Wonder with you tomorrow! :)

  7. Hi Wonderopolis

    That was cool I thought that it looked like the guy was glowing in the dark. I also liked the snow flying up.

    • We are so happy you enjoyed today’s video, Room 12 New River Primary! We thought the colors in the video really showed off the power of LED lights– especially when the boarder made the snow fly high! Thanks for posting a comment and WONDERing with us– it’s great Wonder Friends like you who make us SMILE! :)

  8. Hi Wonderopolis

    I didn’t really know what that was about but I thought it looked really cool.

    From Maddi.

    • We’re glad you learned something new today, Maddi! Thanks for stopping by Wonderopolis to use your imagination and check out a cool new video about LEDs! We really appreciate your comment and we hope you have a WONDERful day! :)

    • Hi there, Chloe! Even if you didn’t know what LEDs were before today’s Wonder, we sure are glad you have learned about them today! We’re THRILLED that you enjoyed watching today’s corresponding video! it’s AWESOME to see your comments and posts, thanks for leaving them at Wonderopolis! :)

    • YIPPEE, we are SUPER excited that the students in Mrs. Wight’s class enjoyed learning about this bright Wonder! We Wonder if these super students can recognize electronics at school or in their homes that use LED lighting? We can’t wait to Wonder with all of you soon! :)

  9. Your videos are soo amazing my laptop finally let me watch them! By the way, I meant to ask what do the PEACE CORPS do. I like ummmm… I don’t know what that means and what it’s for. Anyway your website is soo fun! I am going to go check out what the next wonder of the day is going to be.

    • Welcome back, Carley! We are so HAPPY you can see the Wonder videos now! :)

      We Wonder if you checked out Wonder #693– What is the Peace Corps? You can do some research and reading of your own to learn more about this interesting and service-oriented group of people!

      Thanks for stopping back at Wonderopolis– we cannot wait to Wonder with you again! :)

  10. I think tomorrow’s wonder of the day® might be about fish. Only because you can go anywhere and get fish to take home to fry in a pan. Anyway I am going to check out some other stuff on this website!

    • What a super guess for the next Wonder, Carley! We can’t wait to find out what’s been “cooking” at Wonderopolis! Thanks for sharing your comment and being a SUPER Wonder Friend! :)

    • You did a STELLAR job guessing the Wonder about lights, Tiauna, and we’re frying up some more exciting Wonders for all our Wonder Friends! Thanks for sharing your comments and using your SUPER imagination to guess the next day’s Wonder– YOU ROCK! :)

    • A big hello to Betsy R– thanks for WONDERing with us! :) You have a SUPER question about LEDs! LEDs come in many different colors, just like a string of lights you might use to decorate your house in the winter! We Wonder if you can do some research on your own and discover colorful LEDs in your school, your home or in your community!

      Thanks for sharing your AWESOME comment, Betsy R! :)

  11. COOOL!!! Thanks for the wonder today, it was WONDERful!! :) Me and Aimee think tomorrow’s wonder will be about bacon and eggs!! Yummm! Talk to you again tomorrow!

    Anna & Aimee

    • WOHOO, we are SUPER excited that you were WONDERing about LEDs with us, Anna and Aimee! :) You two are great at using your imaginations and we LOVE your guess for the next Wonder– it smells GOOD!

      Thanks for sharing your comment, Wonder Friends! :)

  12. Hey there wonderopolis! I’m sorry to say but this video was really bad. It was just a man snowboarding or whatever he was doing. I enjoy this website but don’t like the topics and the videos, they are just so boring.

    • We really appreciate your comment and value your opinion, Wonder Friend “B.” Thank you for sharing your thoughts about our LED Wonder– perhaps we will have another exciting topic that will spark your interest! We Wonder what you enjoy discovering? :)

  13. Wow! I have always thought LED lights are boring and you have proved me right! Yeah, lights are NOT interesting so better luck next time.

    • Hi there, Wonder Friend “S”– thanks for sharing your very valuable comment with us! We are sorry to hear you didn’t enjoy the Wonder about LEDs, but we appreciate your input! Thanks for wishing us luck! We would love to know what you like Wondering about on your own!? :)

  14. Dear Wonderoplis,
    I really enjoyed today’s wonder. Tomorrow’s wonder will be about breakfast.

    from: Antwan
    to: Wonderoplis

    • Alright, Antwan, we are so HAPPY that you enjoyed WONDERing about LEDs with us! There is so much to discover and we can’t wait to uncover the next Wonder! We hope you like what we’ve cooked up for you today! :)

  15. Dear wonderopolis,
    I really enjoyed today’s wonder about LEDs. You know it is another meaning for lead of a pencil. I enjoyed it. Aaronyana

    • Hi there, Aaronyana! Thanks for sharing your comment with us today! We are so glad to learn that you’re doing some great WONDERing of your own– and sometimes words that sound alike but mean different things can be confusing!!

      The “LEDs” in the Wonder stand for light-emitting diodes– they are a type of lighting device. “LED” sounds like led (My friend and I led our siblings to the bus stop) and lead (I sharpened the lead of my pencil at school). We WONDER if this helps at all– we love learning new things and helping out our Wonder Friends! :)

    • They sure are, Joel! We bet you can learn something new about LEDs if you check out our Wonder of the Day®! These cool lights will make you smile! :)

    • WOW, how WONDERful, Cylie! We bet your dad can share really cool stories from his days at work! We think your dad ROCKS, and so do you! Thanks for WONDERing with us today! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • What are LEDs?
  • How long do LEDs last?
  • What are some other advantages of LEDs?

Wonder Gallery

LED_shutterstock_62486296695_2695_1Vimeo Video

Try It Out

It’s not time for lights out just yet! Grab a friend or family member and check out one or more of the following activities:

  • Think LEDs only have practical uses? Think again! Watch Quarter Past Midnight online to see professional skiers tear up the slopes wearing special LED suits. How cool would it be to ski in one of those? Do you think LED suits would be practical for everyone to wear at night while skiing? Why or why not?
  • Visit an electronics store with a friend or family member to check out the televisions available today. You’ll probably see a wide variety of different types of televisions. Compare the LED televisions to the plasma televisions. Which is more expensive? Which has a better picture? Can you see the difference between LED televisions and other types? Which do you prefer? Why?
  • Ready for another field trip? Ask a friend or family member to take you to a home improvement store to check out the lighting section. Can you find examples of LED lights? How do these lights compare to “regular” incandescent light bulbs? Which is more expensive? Which is brighter? Do you have any LEDs in your house right now? Talk with your parents about the advantages of using LED lights compared to regular lights. You never know when you might save your household some money on energy costs!

Still Wondering

In National Geographic Xpeditions’ The Riddle of the Russian Lights activity, children use maps to help an astronaut figure out why a string of lights zigzags across southern Russia.

Test Your Knowledge

Wonder What’s Next?

How much does where you live affect who you are? Find out tomorrow in Wonderopolis!

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