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New lighting promises greater efficiency

By Katie Anderson on December 3, 2012

Researchers in the United States have published details of a new lighting technology that promises greater efficiency and reliability than fluorescent light bulbs.

The team at Wake Forest University, North Carolina, has developed Fipel (field-induced polymer electroluminescent) technology from several sheets of polymer, which contain nanomaterials that react to electrical currents. One important quality of Fipel is that its nano-components are able to glow without generating significant heat.

Made from plastic, Fipel technology is markedly different from fluorescent light bulbs and light-emitting diodes (LEDs), which produce a bluish or yellowish light that can strain the human eye. Not prone to cracking, shattering, flickering or burning out, the plastic bulbs are able to produce a more natural-looking light and do not contain hazardous materials.

Dr David Carroll explained: “People complain of headaches [when using fluorescent light bulbs] and the reason is the spectral content of that light doesn’t match the Sun our device can match the solar spectrum perfectly.

“I’m saying we are brighter than one of these curly cube bulbs and I can give you any tint to that white light that you want”.

The physics professor added: “If you wanted blue lights, discos would still be popular. You want lights that have a spectral content that is appealing to us inside of a building. You want a light that won’t shatter and create a [hazardous] situation while your children are around”.

Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) contain approximately 5mg of mercury, which is significantly less than would be found in a conventional thermometer, however, the mercury contained in CFLs is present in the form of a vapour, which can quickly spread in an unventilated room if the bulb is broken, producing briefly high levels of toxicity. Fluorescent bulbs must also be disposed of as hazardous waste. Fipel poses no such risk to human health or the environment.

Fipel bulbs are thought to be just as energy-efficient as LEDs and around 100 per cent more energy-efficient than CFLs. The technology could pave the way for another lighting revolution following the demise of incandescent bulbs. Households are likely to be interested in the environmental and cost-saving properties of this new technology.