New light bulbs made of glowing plastic

A new, glowing plastic material could form bright, white, energy-efficient light bulbs in various shapes, researchers have found.

Using the material, researchers are able to make everything from bulbs like the ones people use in their houses to 2-foot-by-4-foot flat sheets that glow.

The glowing panels may be coming to stores soon. Wake Forest University, where many of the light's creators are based, is working with a company to develop commercial versions of the bulbs that may go on sale as early as 2013.

The new lights use as little electricity as LED bulbs — and half as much as fluorescent lamps — while giving off a comfortable white light, the light's creators say.

"People often complain that fluorescent lights bother their eyes and the hum from the fluorescent tubes irritates anyone sitting at a desk underneath them," the light's lead researcher, David Carroll, said in a statement. Carroll is a physicist and nanotechnology researcher at Wake Forest in North Carolina. "The new lights we have created can cure both of those problems and more," he said.

The bulbs are made with a plastic material that gives off light when an electric current runs through it. Carroll and his team added carbon nanotubes to the plastic, which enabled it to give off five times more light than without nanotubes, according to a paper the researchers published in the January 2013 issue of the journal Organic Electronics. Their ideas build on a technology called field-induced polymer electroluminescence that researchers have been developing for more than a decade.

Carroll and his team worked on making large pieces of the plastic, and ensuring the lights gave off white light similar to sunlight, which people usually find more comfortable.

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