Will Tomorrow’s Light Bulb be Made of Plastic?

White Bokeh on Black Background

Every industry has its own buzz, or the latest developments that could potentially change the playing field. In LED lighting, the current rumor is that plastic light bulbs could soon be on the market. According to a recent press release, Wake University professor David Carroll has applied FIPEL technology to create a plastic, buzz-free light bulb. FIPEL stands for Field-Induced Polymer ElectroLuminescent – that’s quite a mouthful. Basically, it means these bulbs are created with several layers of white-emitting polymer (plastics) that have been blended with special nanomaterials. These nanomaterials naturally glow when stimulated by electricity.

Carroll and his graduate student researchers claim several major advantages to this new plastic light bulb. First, it’s highly energy efficient, since it loses almost no energy to heat. Second, these FIPEL bulbs will provide pleasant, white light with no flickering or irritating buzz like that often produced by compact fluorescent bulbs. Finally, because the bulbs are made of shatter-free plastic and contain no inert gases or dangerous vapors, they’re less hazardous for users’ health and for the environment.

However, we are skeptical because these claims have not been backed up by performance reports. And we’re not the only ones. Ars Technica recently asked Wake Forest for specific numbers on FIPEL bulb’s lumen output and power consumption but received no such facts. The university claimed forthcoming reports would provide more details. We’ll keep our eyes open and keep you clued into developments. Until then, we suggest sticking with LED lights.

An LED light provides the same benefits claimed for FIPELs. LED lighting is extremely energy efficient, since unlike an incandescent bulb it doesn’t waste energy heating a filament. And although Carroll has claimed the white light of FIPELs is superior to the bluish light LED lights produce, the truth is that today’s LED lighting can create any color of light. Boeing recently took advantage of this fact in creating anti-jetlag lighting for its newest jet.

Finally, LED lights are an extremely wise investment, since they last for tens of thousands of hours. Indeed, Consumer Reports has carried out ongoing tests of LED lights and has found that most energy-saving LEDs are just as bright at 12,500 hours of use as they were after 3,000 hours. To provide some perspective, 12,500 hours would be the amount used if you turned on a lamp for three hours a day, every day, for eleven years. Clearly, LED lighting technology is reliable – something we can’t yet say for FIPEL bulbs.


[ Photo by: Trostle, on Flickr, via CC License ]

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