Clever technical breakthrough could make LEDs as inexpensive as incandescents
It was only a few years ago that I was testing LED bulbs that cost $100 each. How fast things change. Today, many high-quality ones are under $10, and some good ones are even starting to be sold under $5 (sometimes with rebates). But if this breakthrough from the Florida State University (FSU) pans out, we could soon see much cheaper LED lights thanks to a new, simpler way to manufacture the light emitting diodes that are at the heart of the new energy-efficient bulbs.
LED lights are already cheaper than incandescents when you take into account electricity savings, but if LEDs can get to prices similar to incandescents thanks to this, there will be no excuses left for the laggards who are still wasting so much electricity as heat rather than producing light... And if you think these people don't exist anymore, think again: 70% of lightbulbs in the U.S. are still inefficient models.
FSU's discovery has to do with replacing what is usually 4-5 layers with a single layer of inexpensive combo-organic/inorganic material that can glow red, green or blue (or all three together for white LEDs) and can be deposited at room temperature rather than at the high temperatures needed by other processes.
"LED researchers have only been using these new materials for about three years, even though its been used for solar panels for quite some time," professor of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering at FSU, Zhibin Yu, told EE Times. "Other groups are working on it for LEDs, but they need several layers of materials making it expensive to process. We are first published group to use a single layer." [...]
"Our new new device structure requires just mixing the organic polymer with the active inorganics, instead of using complicated structures with many layers," Yu told us, "therefore making the process inexpensive and highly manufacturable." (source)
Lighting is such a big energy user around the world (including indirectly, such as in warm climates where lights produce heat that then makes air conditioning work harder), these energy-efficiency breakthroughs will have a big impact. Some of the gains will no doubt be eaten by people putting lights where there were none previously, but I'm pretty sure that most people won't put 4x more lights in their dining room because they have new energy-efficient bulbs that only use 1/4 of the electricity...
© Michael Graham Richard