The quest for the better light bulb has taken yet another leap. This time, nanotechnology derives light from atom-thin strips of one of the world’s strongest materials: graphene.
For the first time, scientists say they’ve created a flexible and transparent light source with carbon in its purest form. They say their discovery could also eventually transform computers by using light rather than electronic circuits in semiconductor chips.
“We’ve created what is essentially the world’s thinnest light bulb,” says Columbia University engineering professor James Hone in announcing the findings. He co-authored a study, published Monday on Nature Nanotechnology‘s website, by a team of researchers from South Korea, Columbia’s Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, Stanford University and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Their approach is notable even in the rapidly changing world of light bulbs. In recent years, as the United States and other countries have moved to phase out Thomas Edison’s century-old incandescent, the market has moved toward much more energy-efficient compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and light-emitting diodes (LEDs)—and beyond.
Companies are offering new products. The Finally Light Bulb Company
uses induction technology for its warm-glowing super-efficient Acandescent alternative, and Alkilu
has portable OLED (organic LEDs) lamps that, unlike other bulbs, don’t have a backlight.Also, later this year, a graphene-coated LED that lasts longer and uses less energy than a typical LED is expected to enter the marketplace—the result of research at Britain’s University of Manchester. It’s not, though, a pure graphene light bulb.