Graphene’s First Commercial Application To Shed A Little Light

A bulb more efficient than an LED? Now there's a bright idea

Graphene is a material with marvelous properties: It can be used to make square ice and night vision contact lenses. It can even be made from your leftover dinner. And soon this form of pure carbon–which boasts a super-strong hexagonal structure at just a single atom thick–may even light your home.

Researchers at the National Graphene Institute, based at the U.K.’s University of Manchester, have now created light bulbs using the innovative substance, and they plan to bring them to market in the near future.

Instead of running current through the traditional tungsten filament found in an incandescent bulb, this newly developed method instead uses a graphene-coated LED shaped into a filament to provide light. According to the bulb’s creators, the graphene bulb–which will also be dimmable–could be up to 10 percent more efficient than traditional LED lights, thanks to the substance’s excellent conductivity. It’s expected to be priced competitively to current LED models when it goes on sale later this year.

This marks the first commercial venture utilizing graphene, which was first successfully isolated in 2003. So it’s no surprise that the University of Manchester will have a stake in the success of the bulb, which will be sold by the Graphene Lighting company. But if the bulbs prove successful, it could help usher in a whole slew of graphene-based products. Scientists see implementations in everything from batteries that can charge faster and store more energy to flexible e-paper-like touchscreen displays. Because of its unique properties, it could even see use in water filtration systems and in creating lightweight aircraft. Honestly, it seems like there’s not much it can’t do.

However, graphene is still pretty difficult and expensive to produce in large quantities, so it may be some time before we see the material proliferate other consumer products. Hopefully, practical applications such as lighting will provide an impetus to develop easier ways to construct graphene–and bring us our square ice that much faster.