Nanotubes hold key for low cost LED lighting

Carbon nanotubes could deliver one of the great ambitions of the lighting industry, to reduce the cost of manufacturing LEDs to the level where they compete with domestic lightbulbs in home lighting applications.

Researchers at the US Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, working with the University of Tennessee, are developing electrodes composed of carbon nanotubes and magnetic nanowires to enhance the light emission from polymer-based organic LEDs.

Using carbon nanotubes improved the electroluminescence efficiency of polymer LEDs by a factor of four while reducing the energy required to operate them.

Magnetic nanowires and nanodots used in LEDs to control the spin of electrons have improved efficiency and reliability to the point where researchers are targeting a reduction in power requirement by half, compared with today’s LEDs.

In Europe, NXP Semiconductors is leading the drive to reduce the cost of LEDs to the point where they can be affordable for domestic use.

“I believe all light bulbs will disappear to be replaced by solid state lighting. This is the next step in the lighting industry, for sure,” said the CEO of NXP Semiconductors, Frans van Houten.

Edgar Langen, general manager of NXP’s solid state division, said: “Solid state lighting is too costly to be deployed in the home. But it’s coming.”

The biggest market for solid state lighting is in backplanes for keypad displays and mobile phone displays. Other applications include traffic lights, architectural lighting for the outside of buildings and headlights.

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