Plastic Light Bulb: Shatterproof, Silent And Twice As Efficient

By iScienceTimes Staff on December 3, 2012 1:46 PM EST

CFLs and LEDs Could Be Obsolete
Pick a bulb! Any bulb! Wake Forest University scientists have developed a plastic light bulb that could replace those costly energy savers. (Photo: reuters)

Scientists at Wake Forest University believe they have developed the world's first commercially viable plastic light bulb. The design is based on field-induced polymer electroluminescent (FIPEL) technology which gives off soft, white light similar to sunlight unlike the yellow light of fluorescents or the blue of LEDs. The plastic light bulb looks to eliminate the common complaints surrounding energy-efficient bulbs, say researchers.

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"People often complain that fluorescent lights bother their eyes, and the hum from the fluorescent tubes irritates anyone sitting at a desk underneath them," said David Carroll, the lead scientist on the Wake Forest project. "The new lights we have created can cure both of those problems and more."

Plastic light bulbs are at least twice as efficient as compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs and as efficient as LED lights. But plastic light bulbs won't shatter and release noxious chemicals like CFLs and provide softer light than harsh blue LEDs.

"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 said. "You want a light that won't shatter and create a hazmat situation while your children are around."

The plastic light bulb is made of a nano-engineered polymer matrix that converts electricity into light. The plastic light bulb has three layers of the polymer and contains nanoparticles that emit a "bright and perfectly white light similar to the sunlight human eyes prefer." The moldable polymer construction of plastic light bulbs means they can be constructed into just about any shape, size and color.

For Carroll and his team, this flexibility translates to virtually limitless potential. While home and office lighting are the obvious markets for the plastic light bulb, Carroll also sees plastic light bulbs being used on theater marquees, retail signage and mass transit. Basically, anything that has lights can have plastic light bulbs. And, if Carroll's ten-year old plastic light bulb is any indication, anything with a plastic light bulb will have it for a very long time.

Wake Forest University is working with an unnamed manufacturer to bring the plastic light bulbs to market. Although no dates or prices have been announced, the University said in a press release the plastic light bulbs could be available as early as next year.

Do you think plastic light bulbs will replace the CFLs and LED? Or are Americans still getting used to the weird, twisty light bulbs and not ready for new light bulb tech? And what would you pay for one, even if it lasts ten years? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

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