New lighting is shatterproof, efficient and easy on eyes

Hate that yellowish light and buzzing coming from the office lighting over your head? A more natural — and shatterproof — alternative might soon be available.

Researchers at Wake Forest University have developed a new type of plastic light that’s based on field-induced polymer electroluminescent technology. The nano-engineered polymer matrix, which converts electricity into light, could overcome one of the top barriers to using plastic lights in commercial buildings, other large spaces and homes.

“People often complain that fluorescent lights bother their eyes, and the hum from the fluorescent tubes irritates anyone sitting at a desk underneath them,” said David Carroll, professor of physics and director of the Center for Nanotechnology and Molecular Materials at Wake Forest. “The new lights we have created can cure both of those problems and more.”

The new light is made of three layers of moldable white-emitting polymer blended with a small amount of nanomaterials. Those nanomaterials glow when stimulated by electricity, creating a bright, white — rather than yellowish or bluish — and light that’s similar to the sunlight human eyes prefer.

The plastic lights can also be made in any other color, as well as any shape. They’re at least twice as energy-efficient as compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) and close to the efficiency of light-emitting diodes (LEDs). And, being shatterproof, they don’t raise the contamination concerns that come with mercury-containing CFLs.

Finally, the new lights are long-lasting: one has been working for about a decade.

Wake Forest is currently working with a company to manufacture the new lightbulbs, which are expected to be available in stores in the next year.

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