Graphene Hits Consumer Market In A Lightbulb


The super-strong, super-light material graphene is getting another use: as a way to make LED lightbulbs cheaper and more efficient.

The new bulbs will be produced by Graphene Lighting PLC, a commercial offshoot of the University of Manchester where the material was first isolated in 2003. That earned the Nobel Prize in Physics for Konstantin Novoselov [pictured left with British politician George Osbourne] and Andre Geim.

Graphene consists of a layer of carbon atoms in a hexagonal lattice, similar to chicken wire. It’s considerably stronger than steel, but with each layer being one three-millionth of a meter thick, it’s extremely flexible. It can also conduct electricity more quickly than silicon, can generate trace amounts of electricity when your pass water over it, and is practically (if not literally) transparent.

Existing suggested uses include everything from making computer chips and powering underground sensors to rethinking the way electron microscopes work. It’s already been used in some specialist professional sport equipment such as skis and tennis rackets.

Now Manchester’s National Graphene Institute has come up with a light bulb that’s said to be the first commercially viable graphene product aimed at ordinary consumers. While LED bulbs use a variety of arrangements of LEDs, often with a flat layer of multiple tiny LEDs, this new design uses a single LED that’s shaped like a filament and housed inside a glass bulb, resembling a traditional incandescent lamp.

The full technical details of the new bulb, scheduled to go on sale later this year, aren’t public yet. However, the makers say the LED ‘filament’ is coated in graphene, which the BBC notes “allows it to conduct electricity and heat more effectively.” According to the makers using this technique should mean reduced energy usage, a longer lifespan, and reduced manufacturing costs that will in turn mean a lower sale price.

[Image credit: University of Manchester]

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