For years now, LEDs have been heralded as the heir-apparent to our old-school incandescent light bulb. Yet despite some serious advantages, such as much improved energy efficiency and a decades-long lifespan, the technology hasn't quite lived up to expectations as an Edison-killer.
While the high up-front cost of an LED bulbs relative to traditional ones is often cited as a hindrance for some folks (though proponents have long argued it ends up being cost-effective in the long run), the most glaring issue, as lighting experts have pointed out, is a phenomenon referred to as "efficiency droop," whereby efforts to increase a bulb's electrical output to where it can adequately brighten large spaces like living rooms have also caused it to be less and less energy-efficient -- sometimes to the point where it cancels out much of the purported financial benefits. Add to that more heat, which consequently reduces the bulb's lifespan, and you have the main reason why LED models typically max out at a brightness range equal to that of mid-range 60 watt incandescents.
“The efficiency droop is one of the most severe and most interesting problems and controversies in science and engineering,” E. Fred Schubert, an electrical engineering professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York, told the New York Times. “Considering that LEDs are the winning future in lighting, [it’s important] for industry and society that the efficiency droop be understood and solved.”
But as scientists continue to investigate the underlying physics behind "efficiency droop," a team of entrepreneurs comprised of Gimmy Chu, Tom Rodinger and Christian Yan have come up with a bulb design that apparently fixes the problem. The trio's "breakthrough" invention not only offers an output of 1,600 lumens, equivalent to a 100W incandescent light bulb, it does so while operating at incredibly low power-sipping rating of 12W. In fact, they've claimed that the Nanolight is the world's most efficient light bulb.
On the group's Kickstarter page, engineer Tom Rodinger explains how the new design is a complete re-imagining of how a LED light bulb should work. While the dimensions of the bulb looks a bit funky, it features a low-cost geometrically-shaped circuit board that in turn enabled him to incorporate the most energy efficient diodes without adding to the overall cost. And by keeping the wattage low and efficient, he was able to do away with the standard heat sink used in just about all bulbs. The bulb also uses a special coating that allows for better heat dissipation so that it can operate at temperatures 20 degrees Fahrenheit cooler. Like incandescents, it even functions omnidirectionally.
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All this translates to a lifespan that amounts to 30,000 hours at a total cost of $50. And with an average use of four hours a day, the Nanolight should last around 20 years.
The project has already surpassed its funding goal on Kickstarter and you can claim a 10W Nanolight (comparable to a 75W incandescent) for a pledge of 30 dollars. The 12W model will run you 45 dollars. For the skeptics out there, they've also posted a video showing the final prototype being put through a series of rigorous tests.
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