The days of using lightbulbs as a political football may be drawing to a swift and un-melodramatic close, now that the company Lighting Science Group has announced the development of a new 60-watt equivalent LED lightbulb that will retail for under $15.00. The sub-$15 price point is critical, because given that the new bulb uses about 85% less electricity than a conventional incandescent bulb, the payback is a mere eight months. On top of that, the life expectancy of the new LED lightbulb is about 8 years compared to whatever for those pesky conventional bulbs that keep burning out, so there is the potential for a quick and widespread breakthrough into the mass market within the next few years.
Coal Power and High Efficiency LED Lightbulbs
The new bulb will be introduced globally, starting with India this year, and it was designed specifically for the Indian power grid’s variable quality. It may also prove to be a key factor in India’s management of greenhouse gas emissions from coal fired power plants. According to a press release from Lighting Science, India plans to build 80 new coal plants to keep up with energy demand over the next five years, but a full switch to LED lighting could reduce that load by up to 40 percent. If that figure seems a bit high, check out this lightbulb infographic to get a picture of the impact that lightbulbs have on energy consumption in the U.S.
Even Cheaper LED Lighting
Meanwhile, over in the U.S.A researchers at the University of Florida are on to a new LED lightbulb design that could result in an even cheaper LED. The new approach is based on semiconductors composed of layers of different materials including quantum dots, which are tiny nanoscale crystals. Though this hybrid composition results in a more efficient LED, until now the catch has been that different processes are needed to apply the different kinds of layers, and that adds up to a more expensive LED lightbulb. The Florida team has developed a way to design the structure so that only one process is needed. As an added bonus, the new design is more efficient and has a longer lifespan that conventional LED lightbulbs.
Lightbulb War Fizzles Out
At the beginning of this summer the majority party in Congress was still dead set on clinging to incandescent lightbulbs, but the hullabaloo seems to be dying quickly. Little wonder, because Lighting Science is not the only company introducing low-cost, high efficiency lighting alternatives.It’s not just the consumer market, either; LEDs are popping up all over the place, from modestly scaled designs for U.S. Navy bunk lights to gigantic airport parking garages. Some legislators are still carrying a torch for incandescents, but the rest of the world is moving on.
Image: Cash register by seanmcmenemy on flickr.com.
Tina Casey on Twitter: @TinaMCasey
Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. You can also follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.