Electronics

Scientists create flicker-free, shatterproof alternative to fluorescent lights

Scientists create flicker-free...
David Carroll (right) and graduate student Greg Smith, with a couple of the FIPEL lights
David Carroll (right) and graduate student Greg Smith, with a couple of the FIPEL lights
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Post-doctoral fellow Wanyi Nie, inspecting a FIPEL light
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Post-doctoral fellow Wanyi Nie, inspecting a FIPEL light
David Carroll (right) and graduate student Greg Smith, with a couple of the FIPEL lights
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David Carroll (right) and graduate student Greg Smith, with a couple of the FIPEL lights

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.

Post-doctoral fellow Wanyi Nie, inspecting a FIPEL light
Post-doctoral fellow Wanyi Nie, inspecting a FIPEL light

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.

Source: Wake Forest University via BBC

19 comments
Derek Howe
cool, but the one BIG thing this article doesn't mention is price.
Racqia Dvorak
Ten years, you say? And it's just now coming to attention... I have a feeling this is going to be another of those technologies that stays in the lab.
John Harper
10 years and we don't have these yet WHY?
Riaanh
Contrary to popular belief as stated in the previous comments, new technology does not jump to full scale production in a matter of months. Concepts have to be proven, viability determined, feasability of full scale production determined, estimation of production costs, etc, etc, etc. Then looking for funding, and playing all the games associated with that. Even if they have done all of that already, it will still take a few years to setup a mass-production facility. - Asking for a price now is a bit premature.
aNTI-Onyx
"Each one is made of three layers of a moldable polymer, blended with a small amount of multi-walled carbon nanotubes."
"Additionally, they don’t contain any fragile glass, and won’t release any harmful gases or other substances if broken"

"SMALL AMOUNT"-- Nano is truely a large amount in quantity
1. Double Walled CNT's and MWCNT's have been found to be toxic to animals; it causes cancer in humans.
2. There are no regulations that are universal or agreed upon for CNT's and the toxicity of the water table and enviroment in the US or foriegn country.
Sounds like a Great find and use of a polymor system that uses CNT's, but do we know about the long term affects of CNT's givin it's time of discovery and where it is today?
Mzungu_Mkubwa
Backlight for all those LCD screens!
yinfu99
I have always wondered why we havent developed light panels earlier. Floro-tube attached to ceilings have always been less than attractive. Also the ease of putting up area lighting is much easier with light panels that traditional lamps. The public applications are far more varied in lighting dark areas, walkways, etc all at low energy use.
David Bell
@aNTI-Onyx: Yes, a SMALL AMOUNT! Look at the figures. Best performance seems to be around 0.05% CNTs embedded in a film around 200 nm thick. That's a *really* small amount of possibly-toxic (unproven, to date) nano material, trapped inside a polymer film. Short of ripping the film out of a FIPEL source, grinding it into pollen-sized dust, and inhaling it, I don't think there's a lot to worry over. Consider also that CNTs are commonly produced in many smoky flames. Humans have been burning hydrocarbons for millennia, and for most of that time, casually breathing the effluent.
Bruce H. Anderson
This might ge a good retrofit for T5 or T8 tubes. The hope would be less expensive that LED lights. The article doesn't mention the working temperature range, like can it handle -15F?
jerryd
A couple of details, LED's are about the same eff as CFL's
And the color of LED's depends on which parts it's made of. Personally I like bright and blue white as it makes details easier to see.