Seeing Life in a new light

Like any building this size with hundreds of people entering it every day, Life Science Centre gets through a lot of energy. One thing that all of our exhibitions, labs and other spaces need is light. Which means a key way to reduce our energy consumption is to make our lighting more efficient (or to do everything in the dark, but apparently that doesn’t make for a great visitor experience, or safety record).

The most efficient widely-available lighting at the moment involves Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs). They’re tiny little bulbs that give out lots of light whilst using very little power. Part of the reason for this is that they don’t give out lots of heat like the old incandescent or halogen bulbs do. They also last longer than other kinds of light bulb, so we’re finding the initial cost well worth it.

Recently, all of the lighting in the Biomedicine West Wing was changed over to LEDs. Much of the exhibition space in the Science Centre is already on LEDs, and every time we do anything new, that’s what we go for.

In our Science Theatre, where I often lurk for training and developing, things can get a bit difficult, though. Lighting is really important for making demonstrations visible and also for creating the right atmosphere. It makes a huge difference.

In our previous Science Theatre show, ‘Let it Glow’, we told stories using shadow puppets, so using LEDs caused us some problems. That’s because LEDs are usually tiny point sources of light, so you need several for a bright light and several points of light means several shadows. Blurred versions of multiple foxes or igloos on top of each other weren’t quite what we had in mind for the show!

To resolve this, we tried putting lenses in front of them. We tried taping over some of the LEDs so there were fewer points of light. Eventually we found some bulbs in which the LEDs were so tiny and so close together that the shadows were nice and clear, and that’s what we used in the show. That’s us, going the extra mile for the visitor and the planet! Tiny things really do make a big difference.

Newcastle Gateshead Cultural Venues are working together on the first Green Week, from Monday 11 – Sunday 17 September 2017. The week aims to raise awareness of environmental issues, and will focus on five main areas: paper, water, food waste, energy and travel.

Find out more about NGCV Green Week >

About Naomi Foster

I'm a Public Engagement Officer. My job involves developing science shows and public workshops, organising lectures for big people and our preschool days for little people. Any excuse to play! I'll be keeping you posted about some of the things I've got coming up.
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