Light emitting diodes have long been presented as an alternative. They are almost 10 times more efficient than incandescent bulbs, and have much longer lifetimes than CFLs. The best part is — they do not use mercury. The problem is cost. Since silicon cannot be used as an LED material, and gallium used in gallium arsenide and gallium nitride is a rare element, it has been impractical to use these inorganic materials in commercial lighting. White organic light emitting diodes (WOLEDs) have been presented as cheaper alternatives, but the method of depositing the materials is often expensive, and wastes a lot of material.
In a paper just published in Soft Matter (subscription required), a team of US scientists partnering with a Japanese company may have finally broken this barrier. They combined some hybrid organic and inorganic materials to create a hybrid macromolecule, mixed it with a polymer, and then printed it to create extremely bright light emitting diodes. They claim a value of 10,000 candelas per square meter. For comparison, a computer monitor puts out about 300.
This is one of the first times that such high brightness printed light emitting diodes have been reported, using a process that wastes almost no material at all. The kicker is that since this was printed, this can be done over very large areas (think walls).
Is practical, cheap, efficient solid state lighting finally here ? I am already imagining walls of bright light emitting material, with no ugly electrical fixtures sticking out at all."
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