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Silicon-based nanoparticles to produce greener, cheaper LEDs

Posted: 17 Jun 2013 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:LEDs? silicon nanoparticles? LumiSands? LED manufacturing? rare-earth elements?

Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are currently the most environmentally-friendly and efficient light bulbs on the market. However, one drawback of LEDs is that they are more costly to produce and thus are more expensive compared to other bulbs.

A research team from the University of Washington claims to have created a material that they believe would make LED bulbs cheaper and greener to manufacture and in turn drive down the price.

Researchers at the University of Washington (UW) have created a material they say would make LED bulbs cheaper and greener to manufacture, driving down the price. Their silicon-based nanoparticles soften the blue light emitted by LEDs, creating white light that more closely resembles sunlight.

Chang-Ching Tu and Ji Hoo

LumiSands co-founders Chang-Ching Tu (L) and Ji Hoo (R) showing the warmer, softer hue of the LED bulb (left side) after a film embedded with their red-emitting silicon nanoparticles is placed underneath. The box on the right is an identical, standard LED bulb.

What started as a graduate student project for Chang-Ching Tu is now a company named LumiSands. Tu received his doctorate in electrical engineering at UW and has just completed a stint as a postdoctoral researcher in materials science and engineering. He now serves as the CEO of LumiSands.

This spring, the start-up company spun out from the UW Centre for Commercialisation, a process that its founders, Tu and Ji Hoo, hope will lead to signing a commercialisation license for the technology.

LEDs give off light when electrons move through a semiconductor material. They are more efficient than standard incandescent or fluorescent bulbs, but they're also pricier. That's partly because within each LED lamp, expensive substances known as rare-earth-element phosphors help to soften the harsh blue light that LEDs naturally emit.

But these rare-earth elements are hazardous to extract and process. China controls nearly all of the market for these materials, which has quadrupled the average price for the past several years.

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