The end of light bulb era: Here go LED bulbs, tables, walls and forks

In this issue we would like to give you an opportunity to read 2 (not big) articles at once. These articles (“Ultimate Mood Light: New LED Panels Snap into Electronic Walls” by Robert Roy Britt and “Accidental Invention Points to End of Light Bulbs” by Bjorn Carey) were published in Live Science magazine. After reading these articles you will find out the new spheres for LEDs using. And one of them (LED bulbs) can be freely called as a breakthrough.

Ultimate mood light: New LED panels snap into electronic walls

Robert Roy Britt

Electronic walls and ceilings with interchangeable LED panels would allow you to change room lighting at a whim, in a new design proposed today. The modular LED panels snap in and out of an electrical grid so light “fixtures” can be moved anywhere.

Electronic LED walls and ceilings Electronic LED walls and ceilings
Electronic LED walls and ceilings
Photo credit: Live Science

“The new concept represents a paradigm shift in the way people think about lighting and the way we build and design interiors,” said Nadarajah Narendran, director of the Lighting Research Center (LRC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. While the public will have some say in whether any paradigms shift, the idea does represent a new twist to Edison’s old bulbs. The LED panels use light-emitting diode (LED) technology, which has emerged recently as a viable alternative to the standard white bulb. Colorful LED lights have been around for years. But only lately have scientists figured out how to make them produce the yellowish-white preferred for room lighting.

LEDs produce twice as much light as a regular 60-Watt bulb and burn for more than 50,000 hours. The Department of Energy estimates LED lighting could reduce U.S. energy consumption for lighting by 29 percent by 2025. LEDs don't emit much heat, so they're also more energy efficient. LED lighting might replace some bulbs in the short term, researchers say. But the success of the whole-room concept proposed today would require wholesale changes in the way future buildings are constructed.

“In the long term the very nature of construction and buildings will go through a change, the way it did during the transition from gas to electric lamps,” said Makarand Chipalkatti, a manager at Osram Sylvania, the lighting company and a sponsor of the research. “To truly realize the full potential offered by LEDs in lighting and architecture, we must invest our thinking and resources in the area of new infrastructure and standards.”

Accidental invention points to end of light bulbs

Bjorn Carey

The main light source of the future will almost surely not be a bulb. It might be a table, a wall, or even a fork. An accidental discovery announced this week has taken LED lighting to a new level, suggesting it could soon offer a cheaper, longer-lasting alternative to the traditional light bulb. The miniature breakthrough adds to a growing trend that is likely to eventually make Thomas Edison's bright invention obsolete. LEDs are already used in traffic lights, flashlights, and architectural lighting. They are flexible and operate less expensively than traditional lighting.

Happy accident

Michael Bowers, a graduate student at Vanderbilt University, was just trying to make really small quantum dots, which are crystals generally only a few nanometers big. That's less than 1/1000th the width of a human hair. Quantum dots contain anywhere from 100 to 1000 electrons. They're easily excited bundles of energy, and the smaller they are, the more excited they get. Each dot in Bower's particular batch was exceptionally small, containing only 33 or 34 pairs of atoms. When you shine a light on quantum dots or apply electricity to them, they react by producing their own light, normally a bright, vibrant color. But when Bowers shined a laser on his batch of dots, something unexpected happened.

Magic-sized quantum dots in a glass flow tube produce white light White light from Bowers' lumpy new bulb
Magic-sized quantum dots in a glass flow tube produce white light when stimulated by an ultraviolet laser beam
Photo credit: Daniel Dubois
White light from Bowers' lumpy new bulb
Photo credit: Vanderbilt University

“I was surprised when a white glow covered the table,” Bowers said. “The quantum dots were supposed to emit blue light, but instead they were giving off a beautiful white glow.” Then Bowers and another student got the idea to stir the dots into polyurethane and coat a blue LED light bulb with the mix. The lumpy bulb wasn't pretty, but it produced white light similar to a regular light bulb.

The new device gives off a warm, yellowish-white light that shines twice as bright and lasts 50 times longer than the standard 60 Watt light bulb. This work is published online in the Oct. 18 edition of the “Journal of the American Chemical Society”.

Better than bulbs

Until the last decade, LEDs could only produce green, red, and yellow light, which limited their use. Then came blue LEDs, which have since been altered to emit white light with a light-blue hue. LEDs produce twice as much light as a regular 60 watt bulb and burn for over 50,000 hours. And they're much harder to break.

Other scientists have said they expect LEDs to eventually replace standard incandescent bulbs as well as fluorescent and sodium vapor lights. If the new process can be developed into commercial production, light won't come just from newfangled bulbs. Quantum dot mixtures could be painted on just about anything and electrically excited to produce a rainbow of colors, including white.

One big question remains: When a brilliant idea pops into your mind in the future, what will appear over your head?