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NASA Research Determines LEDs Provide The Optimum Light Wavelengths for Plant Growth

NASA LED research

By conducting extensive research, NASA determined that LED lights are the best single source lights for growing plants on Earth as well as in space.

If you question whether LED grow lights truly offer advantages when compared to HID lights, then take some time to review a summary (PDF) of NASA’s research about different types of grow lights. According to NASA scientists, LED lights provide the best source of lighting for plants cultivated indoors. Some of the factors that led to the research team making this decision include:

  • LED lights do not require ballasts like fluorescent and other older lights do.
  • LED lighting offers the flexibility of opting for monochromatic lights or a mix of different wavelengths.
  • Since LEDs emit little to no heat, they can be mounted closer to plants than other lights, which makes LEDs the optimal choice for lighting in small contained places.

Once the NASA research scientists determined that LED lights offer the most optimal lighting for plants, they studied the effects of different light wavelengths on plant growth.


Early research concerning the effects of different light spectra on plants found that red and blue lights offer the best support for photosynthesis, which is the process used by plants to transform light into the energy needed for growth and flowering. Further investigation pinpointed more specific effects of different light wavelengths on plants grown indoors. The findings of these study provide the basis of LED light recipes

Some examples of the NASA research findings include the following:

  • Red Light (630 -660 nm) is essential for the growth of stems, as well as the expansion of leaves. This wavelength also regulates flowering, dormancy periods, and seed germination.
  • Blue Light (400 -520 nm) needs to be carefully mixed with light in other spectra since overexposure to light in this wavelength may stunt the growth of certain plant species. Light in the blue range also affects the chlorophyll content present in the plant as well as leaf thickness.
  • Green Light (500 – 600 nm) was once thought not to be necessary for plants, but recent studies have discovered this wavelength penetrates through thick top canopies to support the leaves in the lower canopy.
  • Far Red Light (720 – 740 nm) also passes through dense upper canopies to support the growth of leaves located lower on the plants. In addition, exposure to IR light reduces the time a plant needs to flower. Another benefit of far red light is that plants exposed to this wavelength tend to produce larger leaves than those not exposed to light in this spectrum.

The scientists mentioned including white LED light mixes in arrays serve as a way to ensure plants cultivated indoors receive all the photosynthetically active radiation needed to optimize their health, growth, and yield.

The Results of using LED Grow Lights in Space

NASA uses LED lighting to grow a variety of plants on the International Space Station. Initially, experiments focused on cultivating green leafy vegetables, such as cabbage. Current studies involve growing flowering plants like zinnias. As you can see, the results are impressive.


The first zinnia blooms on the International Space Station.

Source: NASA

With NASA science backing the use of LED grow lights, don’t you think it is time to try them for your grow operations?

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