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Lighting the Way for Quicker, Safer HealingWho's to say that a little light can t go a long way? Tiny light-emitting diode (LED) chips used to grow plants in space are lighting the way for cancer treatment, wound healing, and chronic pain alleviation on Earth. In 1993, Quantum Devices, Inc. (QDI), of Barneveld, Wisconsin, began developing the HEALS (High Emissivity Aluminiferous Light-emitting Substrate) technology to provide high-intensity, solid-state LED lighting systems for NASA Space Shuttle plant growth experiments. The company evolved out of cooperative efforts with the Wisconsin Center for Space Automation and Robotics (WCSAR) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison a NASA center for the Commercial Development of Space. Ronald W. Ignatius, QDI s president and chairman, represented one of WCSAR s industrial partners at the time. WCSAR was conducting research on light sources for promoting food growth within closed environments where humans would be present for a long duration, such as the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station. With the support of WCSAR, Ignatius experimented with LEDs, which provide high-energy efficiency and virtually no heat, despite releasing waves of light 10 times brighter than the Sun. Ignatius admits that some scientists involved in the project were skeptical at first, thinking that the idea of using LEDs to promote plant growth was far-fetched. The experiments, however, demonstrated that red LED wavelengths could boost the energy metabolism of cells to advance plant growth and photosynthesis. This finding prompted Ignatius to develop a line of LED products that emit the exact wavelength of light that plants use in photosynthesis. Our company gives credit to Dr. Ray Bula, the director of WCSAR, for having the foresight to go against the prevailing dogma of the time and design the first plant experiment using monochromatic light to grow lettuce plants, Ignatius proclaims. In 1989, Ignatius formed QDI to bring the salt grain-sized LEDs to market, and in October 1995, the light sources made their Space Shuttle flight debut on the second U.S. Microgravity Laboratory Spacelab mission (STS-73, Columbia)
Document ID
20060022057
Document Type
Other
Date Acquired
September 7, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 2005
Publication Information
Publication: Spinoff 2005
Subject Category
Man/System Technology and Life Support
Distribution Limits
Public
Copyright
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.

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