LED illumination – Techno Notice

Dr Peter March, Bioimaging Senior Experimental Officer, Faculty of Life Sciences, The University of Manchester

Why would I want to move over to LED illumination? As a Facility Manager there are a lot of things that I love about the good old mercury bulb and call me a Luddite, but I’m not sure I can let go of these. I mean, I love technology and work in a cutting edge imaging facility, but moving over to LEDs means I loose so many things by giving up these “Old Faithful’s”:

Alignment: the feeling of satisfaction I get when I stare at a UV light source to superimpose the real and mirror images on each other. Onlookers assume I must be some kind of wizard to be able to fiddle with so many adjustment screws all at the same time. The whoops of delight and astonishment when a user looks down a re-aligned microscope and see their dim sample transformed into a dazzling supernova, which just like a supernova disappears before their eyes as the lamp is now too bright, they can’t reduce the illumination and their sample bleaches.  LEDs have no alignment – How can I amaze my users with that?

Lifetime: I get to repeat my feats of alignment magic on a regular basis with the mercury bulbs. They only last 300 hours so I get to practice alignment and astound my users pretty often. Well, when I say 300 hours, that’s what it says on the packet, but I reckon I can get at least double that out of a mercury bulb making them even more economical. Sure they might be a lot dimmer at the end than at the beginning, and they might not turn on every time towards the end, but surely its no big deal that the illumination is variable from week to week and from system to system. LEDs last for 10,000 hours and have a constant light output – what are you trying to do, put me out of a job?

Anger Management: I’ve learnt through years of walking into a microscope room just as the last user is walking out having just turned the mercury burner off, or finding on a Monday morning that the mercury bulb has been left on all weekend using up 72 of its precious 300 hour lifetime for no reason, that there’s more to life than getting angry over user inconsideration. If LEDs can be turned on and off instantly with no warm-up or cool-down, how am I going to learn to control my temper towards my users?

Heating: I love going into the microscope room. With 7 microscopes lamps all blazing away at 100W each all day it reminds me of visiting my Grandma. Its red-hot in the room and makes you feel all warm and sleepy – just like her lounge did.  On a cold day there’s nothing better than having a nice little heater just a few feet away from you. LEDs are highly energy efficient with little heat output – so what do you want me to do, put a jumper on?

Used bulbs: I could never quite work out how to dispose of mercury bulbs. I thought I could just pop it in sharps bin, but someone said that wasn’t allowed. So not knowing what to do I started collecting them and storing them in tubes, pots, and eventually large boxes – luckily only a few broke. And then it came to me. I realized that I’d soon have enough used mercury bulbs to make a scale model of the Taj Mahal. Try doing that with LEDs!!

I’m sure you’ll agree that there are so many more benefits of a mercury bulb compared to an LED. If you disagree then just techno notice of me!