Just a short while ago, it seemed like the incandescent bulb was headed for the dustbin of history, unable to compete with more more modern LED and CFL designs.
Not so fast, it seems.
A team of researchers working at MIT and Purdue University have come up with new technology that “recycles” infrared photons to improve efficiency. Rather than wasting the light’s energy as heat, a newly developed filter turns more of that energy into light, improving efficiency by up to 10 times. This new technology makes the old-fashioned incandescent bulbs as efficient as fluorescent and LED bulbs, and future versions are expected to be even more energy efficient.
According to the research team, the new technology has applications that go beyond creating a super-efficient light bulb. The innovation could also enable a new generation of solar cells to convert heat into electricity more efficiently than current technology.
Work remains to be done on the long-term performance and pricing of the new materials, but as lead researcher Professor Peter Bermel of Purdue points out, the “materials are both abundant and nontoxic.”
Once written off, the reinvented incandescent bulb may yet have an important role to play in a brighter, more energy-efficient future after all.