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Power Science

Laser Blast Makes Regular Light Bulbs Super-Efficient 559

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the bright-ideas dept.
guruevi writes with news that a process using an ultra-powerful laser can crank up the efficiency of everyday incandescent light bulbs. Using the same laser process covered several years ago, the tungsten filament has an array of nano- and micro-scale structures formed on the surface making the resulting light as bright as a 100-watt bulb while consuming less electricity than a 60-watt bulb and remaining much cheaper to produce. "The key to creating the super-filament is an ultra-brief, ultra-intense beam of light called a femtosecond laser pulse. The laser burst lasts only a few quadrillionths of a second. To get a grasp of that kind of speed, consider that a femtosecond is to a second what a second is to about 32 million years. During its brief burst, Guo's laser unleashes as much power as the entire grid of North America onto a spot the size of a needle point. That intense blast forces the surface of the metal to form nanostructures and microstructures that dramatically alter how efficiently light can radiate from the filament."
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Laser Blast Makes Regular Light Bulbs Super-Efficient

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  • Too late (Score:4, Insightful)

    by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Monday June 01, 2009 @03:44PM (#28173297)
    Of only white LEDs were this efficient as well...oh wait...never mind.
  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Monday June 01, 2009 @03:45PM (#28173307) Journal
    The technique has been used to make extremely efficient light-absorbing surfaces; but hadn't been applied to light-emitting surfaces until now. Since those are two sides of the same coin, I'd have expected somebody to try it much sooner(though, I'll admit, I didn't think of it).

    On the plus side, greater efficiency in incandescents is always good(though I'd be quite interested to know how cheap laser treating filaments can possibly be). I predict that this thread will probably be infested by the "CCFLs are Evil!" brigade soon enough...
  • Consistency (Score:5, Insightful)

    by qoncept (599709) on Monday June 01, 2009 @03:45PM (#28173315) Homepage

    ... and remaining much cheaper to produce.

    ... Guo's laser unleashes as much power as the entire grid of North America onto a spot the size of a needle point.

    What?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 01, 2009 @03:46PM (#28173327)

    Why not set an efficiency factor on a bulb(like cafe standards) instead of banning the different technologies?

    Something I never understood.

  • Too late? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Bruiser80 (1179083) on Monday June 01, 2009 @03:47PM (#28173351)
    Too bad we won't be able to buy Incandescents any more in a couple years....
    http://www.formplusfunction.com/blog/2009/will-incandescent-bulbs-soon-be-outlawed/ [formplusfunction.com]
    unless they can get the new bulbs to 70% less power used. :-(

    The clock is ticking to 2014 (when 40watts are outlawed).

    sorry for the link, didn't have time to find a reputable site...
  • Too late (Score:5, Insightful)

    by the_other_chewey (1119125) on Monday June 01, 2009 @03:47PM (#28173363)
    Too late: Compact fluorescent lamps require about 20W for the same light output as a 100W incadescent.
    And live longer too.

    Yes, their light used to look shitty, but these times are over now as well - if you don't buy the cheapest
    there are, the light out of fluorescent bulbs is perfectly fine. And LED "bulbs" may soon be there too.
  • Lifetime (Score:4, Insightful)

    by snsh (968808) on Monday June 01, 2009 @03:50PM (#28173399)
    But long does the lamp last? It's easy to make an incandescent lamp more efficient. You just crank up the filament temp, but then your lifetime goes to pot. Lamps last 1000 hours because that's how frequently consumers are willing to unscrew and rescrew their bulbs.
  • by Fulcrum of Evil (560260) on Monday June 01, 2009 @03:51PM (#28173441)
    No, that's just a mainstream news unit of measure. We now have football fields, libraries of congress (LOCs), swimming pools (for area?), and the entire power output of the north american energy grid.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 01, 2009 @03:54PM (#28173481)

    Don't worry, they still suck compared to true high effecency bulbs so it's no great loss. In this case HE incandecent is bassicly the same as the smartest retard in the room.

  • by divide overflow (599608) on Monday June 01, 2009 @03:57PM (#28173533)
    Even if the luminous efficacy improves a 60 watt incandescent to that of a 100 watt bulb that still puts it around 29-30 lumens per watt, about 30% of a good fluorescent or LED light source.

    This is a nice improvement for an inherently inefficient and quite dated technology, but hardly but hardly "super-efficient" in the larger sense of overall luminous efficacy.
  • by yoghurt (2090) on Monday June 01, 2009 @04:03PM (#28173621)

    Let's do the math. From that fount of knowledge that is wikipedia, the US grid is about 4 thousand terawatts. That's 4*10^15 W.

    So say we want over 4 times that, like 20*10^15 W to give 4 times the power of the US grid.

    Power is energy divided by time. 1 femtosecond is 10^(-15) sec.
    Let energy in joules be E, power in watts be P and time in seconds be T, then
          E = P*T
    So the energy of power 20*10^15 W times times time 10^(-15) is just 20 Joules.

    Say it takes 1 sec to pump the laser, that's an average power of 20W. Of course the laser pumping
    isn't 100% efficient, and 1 sec might not be the exact right time, it's still feasible. It's only the equivalent
    energy of having the light bulb lit for a few seconds.

  • by Chris Mattern (191822) on Monday June 01, 2009 @04:06PM (#28173665)

    Watch for sales of incandescent bulbs to triple in 2013.

  • by Locke2005 (849178) on Monday June 01, 2009 @04:10PM (#28173731)
    You mean like they mandated emission standards instead of requiring every car to be built with a catalytic converter? Who would be silly enough to pay for lobbying for a law that doesn't favor their own industry while penalizing their competitors?
  • by Chabo (880571) on Monday June 01, 2009 @04:29PM (#28174071) Homepage Journal

    Well, the ideal solution so far seems to be widespread LED lighting, combined with widespread nuclear power. With nuclear power, we could use incandescent bulbs without polluting the environment until LED bulbs sufficiently come down in price to be viable for use in every home.

    I consider myself a true environmentalist, like Hank Hill; I believe in finding pragmatic solutions to keep our environmental treasures available for the next generations, by reducing unnecessary waste. Most modern ecomentalists are really just anti-industrialists and anti-technologists, fighting scientific progress. This is why they're opposed to nuclear power -- because it would allow our increasingly technological lifestyle to continue growing without killing the planet.

    Sorry if this seems like a bit of a rant. It's not against you, it's just a beef I have. :)

  • by QuoteMstr (55051) <dan.colascione@gmail.com> on Monday June 01, 2009 @04:29PM (#28174079)

    Conservation is a red herring: population growth will outstrip any resulting savings. Instead, we should focus on generating energy sustainably. We can do that today with a combination of wind, hydroelectric, and nuclear power.

    Conservation almost always reduces our quality of life. Why should we do that when we have the technology to not only save the environment, but improve our lives as well? We should be encouraging people to use more energy when that power makes life easier. By all rights, electricity should be cheap and plentiful.

    I can't help but wonder whether conservation advocates feel guilt over civilization itself. I certainly don't. There's no shame in using technology to make our lives better.

  • by Red Flayer (890720) on Monday June 01, 2009 @04:30PM (#28174095) Journal
    All that and more!

    Did you know that it's possible to recycle CFLs so that the mercury can be either re-used or disposed of according to federal guidelines?

    You don't have to put them in the trash, ultimate destination: landfill. Moreover, if you do put them in the trash, you're despicable -- you can, for free, recycle your used (but not broken) CFLs at retailers like Home Depot (they are the one I know for sure; the EPA is working with other retail chains to implement similar programs -- and I believe some of those programs might already be in place).

    The mercury issue is a non-issue with CFLs from a consumer pollution standpoint.
  • by QuoteMstr (55051) <dan.colascione@gmail.com> on Monday June 01, 2009 @04:32PM (#28174125)

    ...most power plants in the US (and many other countries too) burn coal...

    Coal power plants, not light bulbs, are the problem.

    We need a sustainable electric grid, and the best way to create one right now is to tax coal and subsidize alternative power sources.

  • by TooMuchToDo (882796) on Monday June 01, 2009 @04:38PM (#28174205)

    and the best way to create one right now is to tax coal and subsidize alternative power sources.

    And to subsidize efficiency increases. Every watt you save is a watt you don't have to generate.

  • by whiledo (1515553) * on Monday June 01, 2009 @04:39PM (#28174227)

    Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

    Work on that plan while at the same time working on the CFL plan. Eventually, LEDs will replace CFLs (probably - or something even better). In the meantime, we can offset the tons of waste spewed out by the coal plants which includes mercury along with a whole host of other nasties. Switching to CFLs will actually make it EASIER to eventually replace conventional power plants, as your new technology won't have to support the same peak load.

    So embrace CFLs, knowing that they aren't perfect but they are feasible.

  • by Shadow of Eternity (795165) on Monday June 01, 2009 @04:42PM (#28174275)

    Out of genuine curiosity what would you do with the nuclear waste?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 01, 2009 @04:44PM (#28174293)

    Like nuclear. Cleanest and most manageable power source per unit of energy produced.

  • by mea37 (1201159) on Monday June 01, 2009 @04:48PM (#28174357)

    Apples and oranges. You're talking about two different problems as if they're the same problem.

    The local problem with CFL's (they contain a trace of mercury) is outbalanced by the central problem of coal-burning releasing even more mercury.

    The local problem with an internal combustion engine (it constantly pumps many pollutants into the environment) is not outbalanced by the central problem of power plant pollution.

    These two statements would only be in contradiction if the polluting effect of the mercury in a CFL were on the same order of magnitude as the polluting effect of an internal combustion engine. It's not even close.

  • by iroll (717924) on Monday June 01, 2009 @04:48PM (#28174363) Homepage

    The same thing that the Japanese and the Europeans do--reprocess it into the smallest possible quantities, and securely bury what's left. The volume of waste that this requires you to bury is inconsequentially small compared to the amount of solid waste (ash) you have to dispose of when you burn coal.

  • by Grishnakh (216268) on Monday June 01, 2009 @04:52PM (#28174403)

    If the figures in TFA are correct, these slightly more efficient incandescents are about half as efficient as a CFL.

    You only need 23W in CFL to make the equivalent of a 100W incandescent bulb. TFA says these new bulbs can do it with 60W. 60W is still 2.6 times as much power as 23W.

  • Re:Too bad (Score:3, Insightful)

    by meringuoid (568297) on Monday June 01, 2009 @04:53PM (#28174423)
    Hint: the 'green' one is the one with the enormous profit margin.

    60W-equivalent (actual rating 11W) fluorescents are frequently on offer at ten for a quid: I've seen that deal twice in different stores in the last few months. Given how long they last, you could get yourself a lifetime's supply for the price of a decent round of drinks.

  • Why not *both* conservation *and* increased generation?

    Conversation is good, but it happens automatically when resources are priced appropriately. Look at how Prius sales went through the roof when gasoline passed $4 per gallon.

    Any time you need to set explicit efficiency regulations (like CAFE limits for automobiles, the incandescent bulb phase-out, and low-flow toilets), it's the result of an insufficiently-regulated market.

  • by DarkOx (621550) on Monday June 01, 2009 @05:05PM (#28174593) Journal

    And this is what so many big government types just can't understand. If we want to protect the environment we need to adopt it as a personal value and we each need to look at situations and use our own judgment. One size fits all legislation will never provide an optimal result. There are lots of situations like pantry spaces where a light needs to be own for only a moment. There are no alternatives for that which are as clean as incandescents. You have to consider the manufacturing and disposal as well. That is just one example with one small aspect of our environmental footprints. This IS NOT A PROBLEM GOVERNMENT CAN SOLVE other than by educating people and simply depending on the fact that they are moral and will do the right things.

    I think it will work too, most people don't want to see the world come to more hare than is needed. Most people will take steps to do right by the planet without being forced. Educate people, provide actual facts rather then just global warming hysteria. Admit that carbon is not the only problem and that the near term consequences of cutting carbon might be worse then burning some more. Teach people system thinking let them participate.

    This is how we can save the environment, not by taking away all the light bulbs.

  • by Chris Burke (6130) on Monday June 01, 2009 @05:19PM (#28174797) Homepage

    With nuclear power, we could use incandescent bulbs without polluting the environment until LED bulbs sufficiently come down in price to be viable for use in every home.

    I consider myself a true environmentalist, like Hank Hill; I believe in finding pragmatic solutions to keep our environmental treasures available for the next generations, by reducing unnecessary waste.

    Okay, pragmatically speaking, how long do you think it will be until enough of our power is produced by nuclear and not by coal for this argument to work? And remember, we're talking pragmatics, so you can't calculate how long from now assuming the entire nation agrees that this is what we should do. Even if we could, we'd be talking decades, but we can't, so it'll be even longer. By the time it happens, I'm betting we'll already be switching to LEDs anyway.

    CFLs are a fantastically pragmatic solution for today. They immediately give an efficiency and pollution improvement in most common situations in America. They work in existing outlets. They work today and are only getting better (more efficient, better light, less mercury). If in the future, as in a couple decades from now, we transition to something newer and better, then what's the problem?

  • by sexconker (1179573) on Monday June 01, 2009 @05:43PM (#28175073)

    Nuclear works DECADES ago.
    Hydroelectric works DECADES ago.
    Solar works DECADES ago.
    Wind works DECADES ago.

  • by Runaway1956 (1322357) on Monday June 01, 2009 @06:20PM (#28175487) Homepage Journal

    "est way to create one right now is to tax coal and subsidize alternative power sources."

    Oh-kay - coal gets taxed. How about 10,000%, to punish coal for polluting the air. How much is your electric bill going to increase?

    Maybe you're rich, and the increase won't hurt you.

  • by whiledo (1515553) * on Monday June 01, 2009 @06:52PM (#28175747)

    Not always. It might do so in a business where they could use the money saved to invest in something that sucked up more power. However, the increased efficiency in my house created by replacing burned out incandescent has resulted in zero increased demand from my house.

  • by atmurray (983797) on Monday June 01, 2009 @07:05PM (#28175877)
    Also,it's easier to store a solid at atmospheric pressure than a gas (C02) that you have to pressurise until it's a liquid and try and pump underground for all eternity. What's the half life of C02? It never decays, it's always C02.
  • by funkatron (912521) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @04:36AM (#28179329)

    Most CFLs have a power factor of 0.5. A device with a power factor of 0.5 means the device uses twice the rated power. Residential power users don't usually pay for the power needed to correct for a low power factor.

    This doesn't seem like much of a problem on a device rated 11W especially if I'm not paying for the extra.

  • by Sobrique (543255) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @08:49AM (#28181325) Homepage
    Aren't '100w equivalent' energy saver bulbs like 15w though? Makes their 60 watt -> 100 watt not look so impressive.

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