Art Museums Turning to LEDs to Preserve Masterpieces

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Museums around the world are swapping conventional lights in favor of LEDs to protect famous paintings from being damaged by light exposure, according to a Wired report.

Light can cause pigments in paintings to darken over a period of time. Van Gogh’s famous painting Sunflowers for instance has darkened from light exposure, leading artists to switch to other yellow colors.

Scientists have identified UV and blue lights, which are found in abundance in conventional fluorescent and incandescent light bulbs, can cause significant damage to paintings.

“You don’t want any UV in your light source, ever,” said Aurelien David, a scientist who works for Soraa. “You would ruin the art, and for no good reason”

The downside of using LED lights, though, is its unnatural white glare. Museums still prefer warm white colors that resemble halogen bulbs.

To fix this issue, engineers will add different combinations of phosphor with the LED to achieve the desired color temperature requested by museums. The resulting LED lighting resembles traditional halogen lamps that museums are accustomed with, and the difference is barely noticeable.

But LED lights can still damage paintings. Lighting designers are designing lighting that accents the artwork rather than lighting up the entire room. This kind of design reduces light exposure for paintings, and causes less damage. Engineers are also designing LEDs lighting directions that can be controlled more precisely.

The potential of LEDs goes far beyond that, though. Engineers could adjust the color temperature of LEDs to mimic sunlight, without emitting harmful UV rays. However, museums remain fairly conservative at the moment, and prefer LEDs that function similarly to incandescent lights.

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