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A Super-Efficient Light Bulb 468

Posted by kdawson
from the it's-little-it's-lovely-it-lights dept.
Chroniton writes with news of a Silicon Valley company, Luxim, that has developed a tiny, full-spectrum light bulb, based on a plasma of argon gas, that gives off as much light as a streetlight while using less power. The Tic Tac-sized bulb operates at temperatures up to 6000K and produces 140 lumens/watt, almost ten times as efficient as standard incandescent lamps, and twice the efficiency of high-end LEDs. The new bulbs also have a lifetime of 20,000 hours. There's no mention of mercury or other heavy metals, which pose a problem for compact fluorescents.
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A Super-Efficient Light Bulb

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  • Light pollution (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Saturday March 22, 2008 @05:29PM (#22831876) Homepage

    gives off as much light as a streetlight while using less power.

    Great, people lighting their properties with more bright lights is just what we need. Light pollution is already a serious probably (it's destroyed amateur astronmy, see Mizon's Light Pollution [amazon.com] ). Instead of showing people how they can make do with less lights, we're just making it cheaper for private individuals to duplicate the Las Vegas strip.

  • Commercial use (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Dan East (318230) on Saturday March 22, 2008 @05:29PM (#22831880) Homepage Journal
    Such high operating temperatures would not be acceptable for domestic use - the risk of fire would simply be too great. But commercial use, specifically for streetlights as the summary mentions, would be ideal. The amount of power consumed by streetlights world-wide must be staggering, so any improvement in efficiency, even in just this single area of light generation, would be substantial.
  • Price? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by danaris (525051) <danaris AT mac DOT com> on Saturday March 22, 2008 @05:34PM (#22831908) Homepage

    So...how much does it cost compared to an incandescent? Or an LED?

    Dan Aris

  • Re:Light pollution (Score:5, Insightful)

    by merreborn (853723) on Saturday March 22, 2008 @05:46PM (#22831994) Journal

    gives off as much light as a streetlight while using less power.
    Great, people lighting their properties with more bright lights is just what we need
    I missed the part of TFA that said these bulbs were going to be available at prices low enough for home use.

    What makes you think these aren't just going to be used to... replace streetlights? Halving the power usage of streetlights nationwide would reduce atmospheric pollution measurably. If the choice is between light pollution and atmospheric polution... ...light pollution is the more desirable of the two.
  • Re:Commercial use (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Geoffrey.landis (926948) on Saturday March 22, 2008 @05:49PM (#22832012) Homepage

    Additionally, if it really generated that much heat, it couldn't possibly be as efficient as even the worst incandescents.

    To the contrary. The eye's range of sensitivity is tuned to the solar spectrum, emitted at a blackbody temperature just a bit below 6000 K. A bulb is most efficient if it emits light in the spectrum that the eye is sensitive to, and not in, say the infrared spectrum. So a bulb emitting blackbody spectrum becomes more efficient as the emission temperature goes up, and peaks in efficiency at around 6000.

    Incandescent bulbs are not inefficient because they are too hot-- they are inefficient because they are not hot enough. They run somewhere about 2500 or 3000, and hence most of the light is emitted in the infrared, not the visible.

  • 140 lumens/watt (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 22, 2008 @05:52PM (#22832044)
    That's really efficient. http://www.otherpower.com/otherpower_lighting.html [otherpower.com] http://members.misty.com/don/lede.html [misty.com]

    The best modern available white LEDs (as of late 2007) produce about 60-90, maybe 98 lumens of light per watt of electricity delivered to the LEDs when the LEDs are supplied "typical" current or that at which their characteristics are specified. Many others that are in recent LED products achieve merely 20-45 lumens/watt. Most such white LEDs are and will be slightly more efficient when moderately underpowered and will usuallty be less efficient when overpowered.

    Taken in the context of some of the other posts, I have trouble believing their claim. If the product was that good, they would make it for general use not just video projectors. If the product was that good, it would be a real breakthrough because it beats LEDs by around 40%.
  • Re:Light pollution (Score:5, Insightful)

    by peragrin (659227) on Saturday March 22, 2008 @05:55PM (#22832068)
    It is also easy to use shields, and angles to limit the amount of light going up, and only light up the areas that you need to. Besides reflects let you use a lower wattage and still light up the same area.
  • by Nodamnnicknamesavial (1095665) on Saturday March 22, 2008 @06:16PM (#22832200)
    1. Scalability - will it scale for use in domestic lighting?

    2. Color temperature - will it do warm white or something similarly pleasant?

    3. Argon... isn't that toxic? (since the summary mentioned hazardous materials but didn't point that out, high school chem is so long ago..)

    4. Price if none of the above are problematic

    5. Time to market.

    If someone can answer those, I'll be genuinely interested :)
  • by edwardpickman (965122) on Saturday March 22, 2008 @06:17PM (#22832204)
    Full spectrum high efficiency lights would be a major boon to the pot.... I mean industrial hemp growers.
  • by imsabbel (611519) on Saturday March 22, 2008 @06:55PM (#22832400)
    A few points, inspired by those "insightful" comments i read till up to now
    a) Temperature=!heat=!"OMG IT WILL KILL US!!!". You dont really want to know the "temperature" of the electron beam in your old style TV... (yeah, i know its not in thermodynamical equilibrium, and thus temperature is not defined, thus the "")
    b) This is nothing really new. It is based on the same principle like the old sulfure-plasma lamps in the early 90s.
    c) It doesnt scale down well. It needs its power provided by microwaves, which is not efficiently possible in the lower power range.
    d) Yeah, it uses 250W. But provides as much light as a 1500W halogen thrower. Wake up, moms basement (which you are most familiar with) isnt the world, there are plenty of things you would like to have 10ks of lumens for.
    e) Reinforced from d: Yeah, a 250W bulb can be energy efficent. Because it puts out a fucking lot light, numbnut.
    f) Doesnt compare at all with leds: Leds have low surface brightness, are effiecent and dont scale UP well. This things have a very high surface brightness, are efficient and dont scape DOWN well. Apple, meet orange.
    g) A better comparison would be vs HID: there they are supperior (longer lifetime, less dangerous, not much more complex driver (HIDs need a high-voltage ballast, too).
  • by langelgjm (860756) on Saturday March 22, 2008 @07:39PM (#22832638) Journal

    quick stop working on that cure to cancer, light pollution is SERIOUS, man

    I can't believe people are modding you insightful. First, where does it say that anyone is stopping work on curing cancer? I must have missed that in the article.

    Second, this thing saves power, which is typically a good thing (TM). Why, with the power we save, we might even have more resources to look for a cure for cancer!

  • by pbhj (607776) on Saturday March 22, 2008 @08:44PM (#22832994) Homepage Journal
    We already have the technology to halve the power usage of street lights. It's called an off switch.

    OK maybe not quite half, perhaps cut by a third. Why do we need near daylight conditions for drivers at 2 in the morning, when they have perfectly good headlights?
  • by Mr. Freeman (933986) on Saturday March 22, 2008 @08:54PM (#22833054)
    The reason we light up the street is because it prevents accidents. Yes, we could save power by turning off the streetlights, but that defeats the purpose of the streetlights, and results in more accidents.
  • Re:Light pollution (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Mr. Freeman (933986) on Saturday March 22, 2008 @09:03PM (#22833098)
    And when it's cloudy, or the moon isn't full?
    "During the vast majority of our evolution we didn't have artificial light, but we did just fine" During the vast majority of our evolution, we didn't drive cars. The culture was also completely different so we may or may not have had any reason to walk outside at night. We may have had better night vision "back then" because no one grew up with artificial lights.

    The next time you're going to make a "We didn't have XYZ, but we did fine!" argument, think about it for 10 seconds. Chances are, you'll see that it's fatally flawed.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 22, 2008 @09:07PM (#22833114)

    I laughed at 2girls1cup, lold at beheadings, accidents, gore, vore, scat, etc. if something inside me has died, that was the weak part. I am retarded now.
    Fixed that for you.
  • Because our social structures have changed hugely in the last 50 years. Walking home from a friend's house at 1 a.m. is nothing unusual for me, or for lots of other people. But I wouldn't be able to do it if there weren't decent street lighting.
  • Re:Light pollution (Score:4, Insightful)

    by apoc.famine (621563) <apoc.famine@gmaiCOLAl.com minus caffeine> on Saturday March 22, 2008 @10:01PM (#22833340) Homepage Journal
    Actually, there is one major difficulty: Thermal expansion.
  • Re:Light pollution (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Belial6 (794905) on Saturday March 22, 2008 @10:25PM (#22833432)
    Yes, it is plenty bright with a full moon, and black as pitch during a new moon.

    We clearly did not do fine before artificial lighting. Think for a second about what color is associated with evil. In virtually every culture on the planet, it was black. Do you know why? Because when you would wander around in the black of night, your chances of dieing went up dramatically. Since lots more people died in the black of night, the night must have been inhabited by evil beings, and thus black is the color of evil and death. This is a pretty good indication that we didn't do fine.

    Of course, maybe I am taking you all wrong. It is possible that you recognize that virtually all of our environmental problems are caused by over population, and when you say 'we did just fine', you could mean that having more people die by turning the lights off would be good for the environment. With that, I could agree, even if it was an uncomfortable agreement.
  • by glitch23 (557124) on Sunday March 23, 2008 @01:29AM (#22834248)

    The reason we light up the street is because it prevents accidents. Yes, we could save power by turning off the streetlights, but that defeats the purpose of the streetlights, and results in more accidents.

    Good argument until you consider there are no streetlights on the interstate. Are there more accidents on the interstate because there are no streetlights or just because people can go faster on the interstate? Or maybe there aren't more accidents on the interstate anyway compared to within the city in which case your argument is definitely not good enough to support not turning off streetlights at 2AM to save money.

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