By Ariel Schwartz
CFL and LED bulbs are light years ahead of incandescents in the energy efficiency arena. But attractiveness? In most cases, incandescents still win. LEDs are more pleasant than CFLs, but as Yumi Kori, president of Studio MYU Architects, explained to SmartPlanet, there's still something missing: "LED color is not enough for me. I can't feel the warmness of the light source."
That's a real problem, and one of the big reasons (besides price) that LEDs--known for producing a colder, bluish hue--haven't taken off for indoor lighting. Earlier this year, researchers at the University of Georgia made a breakthrough in the warm white LED lighting arena when they discovered a new kind of light-emitting material (a phosphor) for the bulbs.
The new phosphor is made out of barium oxide, europium oxide, aluminum oxide, and graphite powders. Zhengwei Pan, an associate professor in the department of physics in the UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and in the College of Engineering, explains in a press release: "Our material achieves a warm color temperature while at the same time giving highly accurate color rendition, which is something no single-phosphor-converted LED has ever been shown to do."
There are still hurdles to deal with. The warm LED has a lower efficiency than regular LEDs, which reduces its usefulness. And it will be difficult to scale production of the new material. Nonetheless, the discovery is the first step in developing LEDs that people want to use indoors just as much as--or more than--incandescents.
Copyright 2013 by Fast Company. Reprinted with permission.