LEDs may seem to be the peak of efficient lighting technology, but they aren’t perfect, and that doesn’t mean that other technologies aren’t being explored. Recently, scientists from Wake Forest University announced a new kind of light called FIPEL, which stands for “field-induced polymer electroluminescent.” If it performs as promised, it offers several advantages over LED and compact fluorescent lights. With commercial development already under way, lights using this technology are reportedly going to be available to consumers in 2013.
Researchers behind the project are promoting it for its improved color properties, as well as avoiding the use of mercury or the “annoying buzz” in fluorescent lights. Of course, the old style T-12 fluorescent bulbs, and their associated magnetic ballasts (which were the kind that could develop a hum) are already being phased out, and means and methods for warming the light from LEDs have long been available.
This is not to say that there are no benefits from FIPEL lights. One disadvantage that most LEDs present is that they are point sources, so the light is very directional. FIPEL light comes from the entire surface (similar to the ESL light, another alternative to CFL or LED lights).
A review posted in Ars Technica reveals a number of weaknesses in the data available about the FIPEL light. Ars notes that the new light is “based on FIPEL technology,” and not necessarily a proper FIPEL light. The article from Ars also dissects the numbers around FIPEL light as compared with other technologies, and finds it seriously wanting.
For instance, the light level of the test FIPEL had a luminance of 100 cd/sq meter, which is only a tiny fraction of the luminance of a light such as a fluorescent tube (27,000 cd/sq meter) or even the Moon (2,500 cd/sq meter). However, the photo attached to the press release and used in other articles about the technology (as well as this one) show something in the researchers’ hands that is more than a little bit brighter than the lab space. So the numbers may not add up, but something would appear to be working. Furthermore, glare can be reduced by spreading the light over a wider area, so a larger area, lower luminance light source is not necessarily a bad thing.
Written by Philip Proefrock