Inexpensive Power Supplies Lighting the Way

Researchers in Japan have prototyped an innovative and inexpensive light source which could usher in a new era of improved performance, lower cost and environmentally friendly lighting devices to compete with LEDs. These flat panel light sources use arrays of extremely conductive carbon nanotubes to provide evenly-distributed lighting with high performance and power usage under 0.1 Watts – about 100 times less than the energy required by light-emitting diodes.

LED lights are known for high efficiencies, but the truth is, only a portion of the photons they generate actually result in illumination of the area, suggesting there is significantly room for improvement. One different approach explored by the researchers was to assemble a structure based on carbon nanotubes which would be a single-atom-thick layer of carbon folded into a cylinder.

This highly technical gadget employs a framework similar to LEDs but generally it delivers light more like cathode ray tubes found in TVs and monitors used prior to the introduction of flat screens. When influenced by a strong electric field, each nanotube works like a small cathode ray tube and emits a high-speed beam of electrons from the end. These electrons hit a phospor screen which is contained in a vacuum and, during this process, they release a tiny amount of energy, causing the phospor to radiate.

Building the device was a fairly simple, low-cost process. The researchers started by mixing highly crystalline single-walled carbon nanotubes with an organic solvent and a surfactant compound. They then painted the mixture on the cathode and scratched the surface with sandpaper, which allows the electrons to more easily separate from the tip of the nanotubes.

Developing the device was a relatively easy and inexpensive operation. Researchers began by combining crystalline single-walled carbon nanotubes with an organic solvent and a surfactant to reduce surface tension. Then they coated the cathode with the mixture and scored the exterior with sandpaper, allowing the electrons to more readily break away from the end of the nanotubes.

Scientists analyzing the results were encouraged by the performance and are seeking ways to continue research and development of this promising technology.

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