Building a better light bulb: New technology could replace office fluorescents

Wake Forest University physics professor David Carroll works with graduate student Greg Smith on new FIPEL lighting …If you are one of the many beleaguered office workers who are plagued, day in and day out, by the annoying flicker and hum of the fluorescent bulbs above your head, Wake Forest University has come to your rescue. Researchers there have designed a new light bulb that does not flicker, creates no noise and, with twice the efficiency of fluorescent bulbs, will lower electric bills for the office and make your boss happier, too.

"People often complain that fluorescent lights bother their eyes, and the hum from the fluorescent tubes irritates anyone sitting at a desk underneath them," said David Carroll, a physics professor at Wake Forest's Center for Nanotechnology and Molecular Materials. "The new lights we have created can cure both of those problems and more."

These new bulbs use a technology called 'field-induced polymer electroluminescence' (FIPEL), which has been around for some time, but until now was not useful for making efficient light bulbs. Carroll's team exploited the ever-increasing potential of nanoscale materials, combining white-light emitting polymers with 'multi-walled carbon nanotubules' — nanoscale tubes constructed of single-atom-thick layers of pure carbon. When the resulting material is exposed to an electric field, it emits a bright white glow similar in quality to sunlight, which is very comfortable to our eyes without producing heat or noise. Also, since the material is made of polymer plastics, the bulbs will not shatter, and there are no toxic chemicals used in FIPEL bulbs.

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"You want a light that won't shatter and create a haz-mat situation while your children are around," said Carroll, according to CBC News.

Office and home lighting isn't the only application for this technology. The polymers can be of any colour desired and the material can be moulded into any shape or size, making it incredibly versatile. They are very long-lasting as well. Carroll apparently has one that has lasted for around 10 years.

You can't go out and buy these new bulbs yet, but if all goes well, they should be commercially available sometime next year.

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