Scientists create flicker-free, shatterproof alternative to fluorescent lights
By Ben Coxworth
December 3, 2012
Fluorescent lights are one of those things that you see everywhere, but that nobody likes. They flicker, they hum, they produce a rather unattractive light, plus they’re fragile and contain toxic substances. They may also be on their way out – scientists from North Carolina’s Wake Forest University have created a new form of lighting that they say could be used in the same large-scale applications as fluorescent bulbs, but that lacks their shortcomings.
Developed by a team led by physicist Prof. David Carroll, the experimental new lights utilize FIPEL (field-induced polymer electroluminescent) technology. Each one is made of three layers of a moldable polymer, blended with a small amount of multi-walled carbon nanotubes – when stimulated via an electrical current, these nanotubes glow, emitting a white light that is said to be similar in appearance to sunlight.
The researchers add that the color of the light is preferable to that of “white” LEDs, which they say actually has a cold blue-ish tinge to it.
Although FIPEL lights can take the traditional fluorescent-like tube form, they can also be made in just about any other shape – or color. This means, for instance, that they could be created in sheet-like panels, or contained in round bulbs that could be screwed into a traditional household fixture.
When it comes to energy efficiency, they’re said to be at least twice as efficient as compact fluorescent bulbs, and about the same as LEDs. They also apparently last quite a long time, with one in Carroll’s lab having worked for about ten years. Additionally, they don’t contain any fragile glass, and won’t release any harmful gases or other substances if broken.
The university is currently working with a commercial partner, and hopes to have FIPEL lights on the market sometime next year.
A paper on the research was just published in the journal Organic Electronics.