A nanophotonic comeback for incandescent bulbs?

Monday, January 11, 2016 - 11:46 in Physics & Chemistry

Traditional light bulbs, thought to be well on their way to oblivion, may receive a reprieve thanks to a technological breakthrough. Incandescent lighting and its warm, familiar glow is well over a century old yet survives virtually unchanged in homes around the world. That is changing fast, however, as regulations aimed at improving energy efficiency are phasing out the old bulbs in favor of more efficient compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) and newer light-emitting diode bulbs (LEDs). Incandescent bulbs, commercially developed by Thomas Edison (and still used by cartoonists as the symbol of inventive insight), work by heating a thin tungsten wire to temperatures of around 2,700 degrees Celsius. That hot wire emits what is known as black body radiation, a very broad spectrum of light that provides a warm look and a faithful rendering of all colors in a scene. But these bulbs have always suffered from one major problem: More than 95...

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