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The Otherworldly Power of LEDs: Plants in Space

With movies like Gravity, Interstellar and The Martian in high demand at the box office, it’s easy to see that our obsession with time and space is growing. While we’ve made leaps and strides in space exploration, there is one area yet to be discovered. The idea of moving our population to another planet, such as Mars, has been the talk of the town for years. But how would we thrive in a world so different from our own? Where would we find shelter, food, and water? How would we breathe? Well, science is about to tackle the first of those issues; food. And it all starts with LEDs.

The Targeted LED Study

A recent Purdue University study illustrates the power of targeted LED lighting on plant life. This finding, based around the effects of combined red and blue LED light on plants, could advance the ongoing development of crop-growth in space.

This amazing research was conducted by professor of horticulture, Cary Mitchell, and then-grad student, Lucie Poulet. They discovered lettuce thrived under a 95-5 ratio of red and blue LEDs. Not only did the targeted LEDs help the plant life thrive, but they used 90 percent less power per growing area than traditional lighting and 50 percent less energy than full-coverage LED lighting!

Plant Life in Outer Space

So why the interest in growing plants in space? According to Dr. Mitchell, “Everything on Earth is ultimately driven by sunlight and photosynthesis,” he said. “The question is how we can replicate that in space. If you have to generate your own light with limited energy resources, targeted LED lighting is your best option. We’re no longer stuck in the era of high-power lighting and large, hot, fragile lamps.

For longer space explorations, say to Mars for a 1,000 day assignment, current space crafts do not have room to carry the team and needed supplies for the trek. Yet, if the team is able to recreate Earth’s biosphere, they’d be able to grow their own food. However, studies hit a snag in the past when it came to recreating Earth’s lighting. The energy costs for the 600-1,000 Watt conventional high pressure sodium lamps were overwhelming, and the lights ended up overheating and wilting the plants in the process. According to Poulet, “You’d need a nuclear reactor to feed a crew of four people on a regular basis with plants grown under traditional electric lights.”

Now LEDs have changed the name of the game. Instead of the 600 to 1,000 Watt lights used in earlier studies, these LEDs use only 1 Watt each and can be placed closely to the plants due to their lack of radiant heat. Plus, the customized ratio of red and blue light creates an optimal environment for photosynthesis.

LEDs: The Future of Lighting Today

While Sitler’s doesn’t sell lights for outer space plant life (yet), we do sell lights specifically made for poultry and swine, something equally as important when you live in Iowa! Contact us today to learn more about these top of the line agricultural products!

Posted in LED Agriculture Lighting, LED Products and Innovations