Although this type of light fixture was showing signs of becoming extinct, similar to how video tapes and floppy disks were replaced by newer and more efficient devices, it seems that it still has some fight left in it. This is because an incandescent lightbulb with 2000% increased efficiency was developed at MIT.
Incandescent lightbulbs have been around for over a century since they were invented by Joseph Swan. But their means of creating light through the use of a filament that gets heated up through electricity is extremely inefficient. Once lightbulbs reach 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit, they give out light, but the energy consumed gets mostly transformed into heat. Only 3% of the total energy gets transformed into light.
True, this is entirely useful for devices that require a source of heat while at the same time needing light as well, like incubators and other similar appliances. But using them in your home as light fixtures is rather inefficient. This is why incandescent lightbulbs have been slowly replaced by their more efficient counterparts, fluorescent lights and LEDs.
Because of the intense heat given by incandescent bulbs, the MIT research team attempted to conduct a way to insulate the lightbulb from heat on the inside. This would effectively bounce back any invisible radiation back towards the filament, heating it in the process, leading to a massive increase in efficiency.
The idea of adjusting the light’s spectrum in order to tinker the infrared radiation given off by lightbulbs has already been discussed upon by scientists, but a clear method of doing that was not found. But the MIT researchers found that by applying a layer of photonic crystals on the inside of the bulb, all invisible radiation gets bounced back towards the filament.
Besides being exponentially more efficient than traditional incandescent lightbulbs, this new type of bulb also surpasses normal fluorescent lights and LEDs in terms of energy efficiency. But that is not the only benefit, with the new device being capable of reproducing a wider variety of colors, as well as being able to provide a better power scalability.
Although at first glance it might seem that building this photonic crystal layer cannot be efficient in terms of production costs, that is entirely not the case. The insulating layer can be manufactured from easily sourced materials, a fact that leads to a decrease in production cost, making bulbs cheaper in the process.
But this does not mean that environmentally-friendly LEDs should be avoided. The new lightbulb is still in its conceptual phase of development, being capable of only a 6% efficiency rate, compared to incandescent bulb’s 2.3%. Until the technology advances at a level which makes it commercially viable, reaching 40% efficiency rates, consumers should still opt to upgrade to existing fluorescent lights and LEDs.
The fact that an incandescent lightbulb with 2000% increased efficiency was developed at MIT has applications in other sides of the technological department as well. Thermo-photovoltaic devices that convert heat into light, which in turn gets turned into electricity, will also benefit greatly from this new discovery, leading to a massive increase in efficiency.