Do the Flicker-Free FIPEL Lamps Mean the End of Fluorescent Lights?

A while ago the BBC reported on a new plastic lightbulb that apparently gives a better quality of light than modern fluorescent bulbs and twice the energy efficiency.

The research behind the “FIPEL” technology is now online, ahead of publication in the peer-reviewed journal Organic Electronics (thanks to R&D for the link!). The lighting industry is a technological wonderland lately!

“Glowing Layers of Malleable Plastic”

FIPEL (an acronym for Field-Induced Polymer Electroluminescence) bulbs were developed by Dr. David Carroll at Wake Forest University in North Carolina.

The science is outlined in the Organic Electronics paper above, but in brief: the lights are made from layers of polymer containing nanomaterials that glow when an electric current is passed through them.

It sounds like it should generate some heat, but reports say it doesn’t. FIPEL also offers a few other, rather futuristic advantages over current tech.

The Advantages of FIPEL

FIPEL is primarily pitched at the market for fluorescent lighting, such as offices and high-bay warehouses. The most salient advantage is that they don’t hum or flicker like contemporary lights, which should bring some joy to office workers.

The plastic lamps are also malleable, so they can be arranged into whatever shape you like, and shatterproof. The composite materials can be made to a range of specifications such as ceiling-mounted “sheets.” Wake Forest are hopeful that the technology will later be adopted in the retail market.

In terms of colour temperature, these lamps are closer to natural daylight than anything available on the consumer market. Fluorescent lamps tend to be “warmer” than the ideal level; LEDs are generally cooler. This means they’re great for indoor workers!

To stave off concerns about longevity, Carroll claims that he’s had a prototype running in his office for close to a decade. But whether FIPEL poses a real threat to fluorescent lighting remains to be seen.

PureLux, Wake Forest University’s commercial lighting technology arm, are set to bring FIPEL to the consumer market in 2013. There’s still no word on pricing – and pricing has been one of the major obstacles for energy-efficient lighting.

Until then, why not take a look at the LED light fittings available at Sparks?

Photo credit: Ken Bennett, Wake Forest University

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