Wake Forest Scientists Working On FIPEL Lighting

by | Jan 3, 2013

Ever walk into a convenience store and notice the bright, flickering, harsh lighting and buzzing noise created by those lights above your head? Everyone knows what I’m referring to – fluorescent bulbs.

Scientists at Wake Forest University have developed a large scale lighting alternative that neither flickers nor shatters that they claim is two times as efficient as CFL technology and much less expensive than LED lighting.

FIPEL technology is lighting based on field-induced polymer electroluminescent technology and is more pleasing to the human eye because it illuminates a soft – white light much like a traditional light bulb. Never mind that harsh yellow convenience store light or the blueish hint from an LED. This bulb is nearly twice as efficient as CFL technology and pretty much undestroyable since its made from moldable plastic.

Leading Scientist David Carroll is the director of Center for Nanotechnology and Molecular Materials at Wake Forest University where this technology is being developed. Carroll says  “People often complain that fluorescent lights bother their eyes, and the hum from the fluorescent tubes irritates anyone sitting at a desk underneath them, the new lights we have created can cure both of those problems and more.”

The device is made of three layers of moldable white-emitting polymer blended with a small amount of nanomaterials that glow when stimulated to create bright and perfectly white light similar to the sunlight human eyes prefer. The bulbs can be made in any size and shape that suits the environment. If you are looking to replace office lights, you would go with 2×4 sheets that are standard in office areas. If you are looking for a lighting solution in a traditional socket- that can work too as they make a bulb to that fit Edison sockets for  household lamps and light fixtures.

Yet, this is not your typical bulb. The team uses a nano-engineered polymer matrix to convert the charge into light. This allows the researchers to create an entirely new light bulb – overcoming one of the major barriers in using plastic lights in commercial buildings and homes.

This new lighting solution is at least twice as efficient as compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs and on par with LEDs, but these bulbs won’t shatter and contaminate a home like CFLs or emit a bluish light like LED counterparts.

“Lights that have a spectral content 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.”

In terms of office lighting, Carroll’s group is the first to make a large-scale FIPEL that can replace current office lighting and is based on natural white light.

Beyond office and home lighting, Carroll sees potential uses for large display lighting, from store marquees to signs on buses and subway cars. FIPELs also are long-lasting; Carroll has one that has worked for almost 10 years.

Center scientists have developed other innovative technology as well, including highly efficient plastic solar cells, something called “Power Felt”, which is a fabric that can use body heat to charge small electronics, and a combination solar-thermal heat pump.

Wake Forest is working with a company to manufacture the FIPEL technology and plans to have it ready for consumers as early as next year.

Danielle Stewart is a media consultant for [P2] Precision Paragon.

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