December 3, 2012
Fluorescent Light Dimmed, Makes Room For Plastic Light
Peter Suciu for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
Fluorescent light is often cast in a bad light. Despite the fact that it provides light in a variety of temperatures, is long-lasting, and is considerably more efficient than incandescent lights, the bulb is criticized for its noisy hum and potential safety risks. Moreover the latest development, the compact fluorescent, which was supposed to replace the incandescent bulb, has become a dead-end in the evolution of the technology.The compact versions were expensive, cast a light that many found to be harsh or unnatural and worst of all contained mercury--making for a potential mini-environmental disaster if the bulbs happened to break.
Now, researchers from Wake Forest University have developed a flicker-free, shatterproof alternative for large-scale light solutions. this new light is based on field-induced polymer electroluminescent (FIPEL) technology, which has the promise to give off soft, white light — not the yellowish glint that fluorescent lights produce, or the bluish tinge that is often cast with LEDs.
“People often complain that fluorescent lights bother their eyes, and the hum from the fluorescent tubes irritates anyone sitting at a desk underneath them,” David Carroll, the scientist leading the tech development at Wake Forest, said in a statement. “The new lights we have created can cure both of those problems and more.”
This “cure” has been a long time coming. While not as old as the incandescent, the fluorescent light is still more than 100 years old, first developed by Thomas Edison in 1896. It wasn´t until the 1930s however that the lights began to see more widespread use, and in the post-World War II era became the de facto lights for basements, garages and unfortunately for millions of office building cubicles.
Given that for decades there was little in lighting development, the new improvements in compact fluorescent, LEDs and now FIPEL, the ability to provide cost-effective and energy-efficient illumination is moving literally at “light speed.”
The new lighting solution is at least twice as efficient as compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs and currently on par with LEDs. And while energy and cost savings remain big factors, also worth considering is how the FIPEL technology could also cast a better light.
The new source is made from three layers of white-emitting polymer that contain a small volume of nanomaterials that will glow when an electric current is passed through them. This white is reportedly similar to the sunlight human eyes prefer, but it can also be made in any color or shape — from a 2x4-foot sheet to replace office lighting to a bulb with “Edison” sockets that will fit household lamps and light fixtures.
“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,” Carroll added. “You want a light that won't shatter and create a hazmat situation while your children are around.”
Unlike with CFLs, the new plastic FIPEL bulbs can´t shatter, nor do they emit a toxic field of mercury or other hazardous materials.
At present Wake Forest is working with a company to take the technology from the concept stage to reality, and Wake Forest plans to have it ready for consumers early next year.
The first step will be to make large-scale FIPEL lights that can be used to replace office light — not to mention those in the basements and garages, but has reportedly “seen the light” for possibilities of large display lighting that include signs on buses, subway cars and in retail displays.
Wherever the lights may be used they could be there for some time; FIPELs could light the way for about a decade.