Saturday, October 22, 2005

Research Student Discovers New Low Energy Lightbulb


By Elaine Meinel Supkis

A student at Vanderbuilt University accidently discovered a novel way to light surfaces. Using nano-quantum dots, he found that exciting them with a small LED light caused them to light up brightly.

Michael Bowers, a graduate student at Vanderbilt University, was just trying to make really small quantum dots, which are crystals generally only a few nanometers big. That's less than 1/1000th the width of a human hair.

Quantum dots contain anywhere from 100 to 1,000 electrons. They're easily excited bundles of energy, and the smaller they are, the more excited they get. Each dot in Bower's particular batch was exceptionally small, containing only 33 or 34 pairs of atoms.

When you shine a light on quantum dots or apply electricity to them, they react by producing their own light, normally a bright, vibrant color. But when Bowers shined a laser on his batch of dots, something unexpected happened.

"I was surprised when a white glow covered the table," Bowers said. "The quantum dots were supposed to emit blue light, but instead they were giving off a beautiful white glow."

Then Bowers and another student got the idea to stir the dots into polyurethane and coat a blue LED light bulb with the mix. The lumpy bulb wasn't pretty, but it produced white light similar to a regular light bulb.
They experimented with using these nano-dots with polyurethan and this caused an entire surface to light up. There are many applications one could think of for this, lighting hallways, for example, by painting the floor or ceiling or both with these and then "turning them on" by electrifying them.

Indirect light is useful for defining large spaces. I use strings of christmas white lights to light up various areas of the house that needs to be seen but not brightly lit. I run them along the treads of my spiral staircases so the steps are very defined. I don't bother to turn on hall or staircase lights because the smaller lightbulbs outlining the steps or hallways are better because they don't cast shadows all over the place. After all, I don't read books in the stairs!

Already, since my days in the tent complex when we had only one solar panel, I used only the most efficient of bulbs. I have no old fashion lightbulbs. This new potential technology sounds great. I can't wait to paint the entire basement ceilings with this! Wow. Fun.

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