LEDs Help to Bring Color and Light to the Beijing Olympics

August 20, 2008


Two photos of the rectangular Water Cube show strikingly different colors and patterns in a bright, bold display.

The Water Cube's default color is blue, but nearly half a million red, blue, and green LEDs allow it to display a nearly infinite number of patterns and color combinations.
Credit: AP Photo/Natalie Behring for Cree, Inc.

U.S. Olympian Michael Phelps displayed amazing athleticism in mid-August at the Water Cube, but outside the building, U.S. technology is providing an amazing display of an entirely different sort. Colored light-emitting diodes (LEDs) from Cree, Inc. allow the building to change color, display words, and generate moving images to create a unique architectural presence on the Olympic Green in Beijing. Nearly a half million red, green, and blue LEDs allow the 3,000 "bubbles" on the exterior of the building to display millions of different colors. Officially known as the National Aquatic Center, the building displays a different computer-controlled pattern each evening. See the Cree Web page on its Olympic contribution, and check out the photos and videos of the Water Cube on the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games Web site and on YouTube.

Cree XLamp LEDs also provide lighting effects for the exterior of the National Stadium, nicknamed the Bird's Nest. About 258,000 Cree LEDs provide white, amber, and red accent lighting for the unique structure, which is adjacent to the Water Cube. Cree LEDs are also used inside the Bird's Nest for a video screen behind the main stage, and they were also incorporated into one the most amazing technological feats of the opening ceremony, a luminous scroll that formed one of the largest LED screens in the world. The screen measured 230 feet by 70 feet, according to the broadcast on NBC. See the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games Web site for exterior night photos of the Bird's Nest, and note that the scroll is featured prominently on the main page of the site's overview of the opening ceremony. For those who missed the opening ceremony, a video is also available on the NBC Olympics Web site (the scroll first appears at about 19:20).

While the Olympic Village is currently jam-packed with gold medal winners, the village also won gold on its own. On August 18, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) announced that the village has won a gold-level certification under a pilot program that recognizes the use of green building principles in neighborhood development. The Olympic Village won the LEED Gold certification for integrating the principles of smart growth, New Urbanism, and green building into a comprehensive system for neighborhood design. It is the first Olympic Village to receive LEED certification and is the first international project to be certified under the LEED for Neighborhood Development pilot program. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is one of the leading green building certification efforts in the world. Among the technologies used in the village is the SolarWall, a device from Conserval Engineering, that preheats ventilation air by sucking it through holes in a solar-heated plenum mounted on an exterior wall. The village also features a combination of the SolarWall with solar photovoltaic panels, called SolarWall PV/T, to produce both solar preheated air and electricity at the same time. See the USGBC press release (PDF 26 KB), the Conversal Engineering press release, and the Converval Web pages on the SolarWall and SolarWall PV/T systems. Download Adobe Reader.