Spectrum King – LED grow lights have finally come of age!


Spectrum King – The first LED grow-lights that are more than just a viable option!

The impresseive Spectrum King LED grow light

The idea of growing plants using grow lights based around LEDs is nothing new. In fact NASA pioneered research into this as far back as the 1980s, and they have been exploring the idea ever since. Driven by the fact that LEDs are efficient and have a long life, the advantages of using them instead of fluorescent or HID grow lights made them a tantalising prospect.

Back then, LED technology was still fairly new. The power of an LED was still rather limited, and no one had yet worked out a way of making a blue one. In food crops, giving plants a wide spectrum of light makes a large difference to the nutritional quality. Not only that but without blue light, plants tend to grow very thin, elongated stems with long internodes (they are often described as “leggy”). The lack of a blue LED was a definite stumbling block for them.

The technical bit (if you care):

LEDs (or Light Emitting Diodes) are basically 2 pieces of “doped” semiconductor (one piece of p-type and piece of n-type) which are fused together. When a voltage is applied across the semiconductor (in the right direction) a current flows. As individual electrons traverse across the semiconductor, they can fall into holes, releasing energy in the form of a photon of light.

Early LEDs made back in 1970s were not very powerful. The colour of the light that is emitted corresponds to the amount of energy that the electrons lose when they fall into a hole. Red is produced for a low-energy release. Green is released for a higher energy release. Blue requires even more energy to be released. The first LEDs were so low power that they didn’t even make visible light. All they could muster was Infra-red!

The amount of energy that can be coaxed from each electron can be manipulated by what compound you dope the semiconductor with. The real problem that scientists and engineers faced was what to dope the semiconductor with to make blue light, and then how to actually perform the doping.

At last,  in 1994, a Japanese chap called Shuji Nakamura, who worked for the Nichia Corporation, discovered that indium gallium nitride (InGaN), a mix of gallium nitride and indium nitride could do the trick. But the problem didn’t end there. Indium gallium nitride does not form crystals easily (a necessary process in order to dope the semiconductor). Shuji found a way of getting the crystals to form by using sapphire as a base substrate, and finally the bright blue LED was born.

What the invention of blue LEDs has meant for technology:

It may not seem obvious at first, but the advent of the blue LED has had quite a profound effect on society. Red, green and blue components are the basis of every pixel on a display device. Thus, the blue LED has enabled mobile phones and tablets with full spectrum colour displays. It has also allowed us to do away with the inefficient, heavy and bulky old cathode ray tube type television and computer monitor.

Not only that, but with yet more development, it was finally it was possible to make a “white” LED. With their awesome efficiency, white LEDs became highly viable for making lighting. Watt for watt, white LEDs produce more than 4 times as much light as a fluorescent light, and about 18 times as much light as the old incandescent type. On top of that, they will usually last something like 50,000 hours, and sometimes up to 70,000 hours (that’s about 6 to 8 years’ continuous use).

But how does all this affect me as a grower…?

Here at One Stop Grow Shop, we have held off on stocking LED grow lights for one main reason – LEDs never produced the same results that could be had with a HPS grow light. That is – until now!

Big claims were always being made such as a 90 watt led grow light being equivalent to a 400 watt HPS. However, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and the LED grow lamps never really produced the goods. They were made by creating an array of LEDs with different colours. Each LED produced a very narrow spectrum, generally centred around the wavelengths that chlorophyll A and B use to photosynthesise at.

The problem is, chlorophyll is not the only factor. Plants actually use many, many different wavelengths for other assorted purposes, such as producing carotene, vitamins and other vital compounds for normal growth. Even when several different colours of LED are employed, the plant is still left deprived of many of the wavelengths that it needs to make all the extra compounds. This one of the reasons why LED-grown plants have a different growth pattern and end up looking quite different to sun or HPS-grown plants (typically they look leggy, spindly, weak, with some odd-looking leaf colouration and shape). The Spectrum King LED grow light avoids this as it produces a full spectrum of light:

Plants growing in an NFT system bathing in the full-spectrum light of Spectrum King LED grow light

The LEDs in Spectrum King Grow Lights are super-efficient!

Another problem with the red and blue LEDs on the market today is that they do not produce the same intensity as a white LED can. Red and Blue LEDs can only produce up to 45 lumens per watt. White ones can produce over 100 lumens per watt!

Now that one company has developed the technology to produce white LEDs with real power, the game has totally changed.

Spectrum King produce the first LED grow lamp that we are proud to stock. Taking a review, their grow lights employ white LEDs produced by a company called Cree who are right at the cutting edge of LED technology and hold 2500 patents and 3000 more pending. The results are amazing, using our Li-Cor  claiming the 400+ watt version it produces a PPFD (Photosynthetic Photon Flux Density) of 750 μmol/Sec/m2 at 50cm. The amount of plant usable light produced by a 750 watt Pro HPS set to Boost (825 watts) at the same distance is only 400 μmol/Sec/m2! Spectrum King also produce a 300+ watt version that they say is the equivalent of a 750 watt pro HPS.

The beautiful white light of the Spectrum King LED grow light

Because they are so efficient, they produce very little heat. This is an awesome characteristic for growers when keeping a good temperature (21C – 28C) in their grow space can become a real battle in the summer months.

The energy savings are considerable. If you do the sums, you will find that one of these could easily save you a couple of hundred pounds in a year.

The fact that your plants will be getting a wide, continuous spectrum of light from the Spectrum King 300+ or 400+ models means that you will be growing much healthier plants, and therefore your crops will end up being much better quality!

With this list of fantastic benefits, who wouldn’t want one?