Incandescent Fans Rejoice! Science Is Fixing Your Lighting Problem

Photo by Kenny Louie via Flickr

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    The unfortunate ugliness of the new, legally mandated efficient lighting could drive even a beard-wearing, artisanal-chocolate-eating, Edison-bulb-sporting Brooklyn hipster to embrace the conservative cause of “Keep the government out of my light sockets!”

    While traditional incandescents cast a warm, cheery glow, the new longer lasting, energy-saving bulbs emit light skewing toward cooler, more corpse-like hues.

    The choice between energy-efficient LEDs and a livable light quality is not an easy one — especially after the government moved to phase out incandescents starting in 2014. I’ve met more more than one lighting-obsessed homeowner fretting over their dwindling hoard of almost-obsolete bulbs.

    But now there is hope! Scientists at MIT have redesigned incandescents with increased efficiency, while retaining their rich quality of illumination.

    Incandescent lighting is a 19th century technology that ekes out illumination from just two percent of the energy it uses. The problem is that the traditional bulbs have to push electricity through tungsten filaments — throwing off oodles of wasted, non-visible infrared light and heat in the process.

    Incandescent Light Blubs

    This Park Slope mansion would look sterile if lit with cool-toned LEDs. Photo by Stribling

    LEDs, on the other hand, use transistors rather than filaments to directly turn electricity into illumination. It’s efficient, but arguably unattractive.

    Now, MIT researchers have devised an innovative new filament — one covered in 90 layers of reflective photonic crystals that trap infrared light while letting visible light escape. The filament’s unique folded shape also makes it easier to reabsorb the infrared energy.

    What does this redesign do? It triples the efficiency of the bulb as compared to the average incandescent — and the researchers are optimistic they can achieve another 40 percent increase in efficiency with a few other fixes.

    The technology isn’t market ready just yet, but it’s a cause for hope that energy-efficient lighting design will soon be compatible with a livable quality of light.

    But what do you think? Is the problem of LED light quality overstated? Or are you already celebrating the future rebirth of incandescents?

    [Source: Co.Design]

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