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Researcher develops plastic light bulb

By: Michael Lauzon

December 3, 2012

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (Updated Dec. 4, 12:20 p.m. ET) — A Wake Forest University professor of physics is leading a research group that claims to have developed a new light source based on three layers of light-emitting polymer doped with nanomaterials.

David Carroll claims the lights, called Fipel for field-induced polymer electroluminescent technology, burns with more brightness than a conventional bulb and lasts longer. Unlike conventional light-emitting diodes that light up with a bluish cast, the Fipel system gives  natural light as from the sun and lasts as long as LEDs.

In the January issue of Organic Electronics, Carroll and other researchers describe the basics of Fipel technology. It comprises a complex organic iridium polymer doped with multiwall carbon nanotubes.

Graduate Student Greg Smith said in an interview from laboratories in North Carolina’s Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem that the doped product can be cast on a glass or plastic substrate.

“A key advantage is that it is solution processed,” Smith explained. “It can be spin coated, spray coated, coated by inkjet or by blade coating.”

The Fipel system could be made into 2-foot-by-4-foot sheets for office illumination or in bulbs that fit standard Edison sockets. Other potential uses might be large display lighting, television display tubes or on subway cars.

Researchers found the nanotubes dope the complex polymer similarly to how trace elements can dope silicon to form semiconductor transistors.

Smith said the Fipel system can be made into a range of shapes.

A news release from Wake Forest claims Fipel could be twice as efficient as compact fluorescent bulbs.

Carroll says he has an undisclosed corporate partner and expects to begin making Fipel commercially in 2013.

Other researchers cited in the Organic Electronics report include Carroll and Smith of Wake Forest’s Center for Nanotechnology and Molecular Materials, and researchers from the School of Physics at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland.