Heralding a new discovery as “the biggest boost for illumination since Edison’s light bulb,” the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) announced today they’ve found a way to make much more efficient LED lighting appear white through the up to now elusive artificial generation of the color green. This color, joined with blue and red, minimally make up the necessary spectrum choices for artificial LED light to appear white (compared to white light from the sun, which is “really all the colors of the rainbow). Why is this a big deal? Because current LED lighting, seen as the eco-friendly lighting choice of the future, “are made to look white by aiming the blue light at a phosphor, which then emits green. It works OK, but the clunky process saps a big chunk of the efficiency from the light.”

NREL scientists, the federal agency said, were led by in-house staffer and solar patent holder Angelo Mascarenhas. Mascarenhas is said to have realized that an LED is just the reverse of a solar cell and that, therefore, he could apply his skills to develop “some device where we could just reverse the process of making solar cells.” He said that, along the way, “we had already developed some of the know-how to capture sunlight in this green spectral region.” Previous work in developing “inverted metamorphic solar cells” that optimally capture solar energy provided to be the key – in reverse engineering this complex process, it “produced a radiant deep green on their very first try.”

NREL Green
image via NREL

Mascarenhas’s team, having now accomplished this, wants to add “a fourth color to make that white light even whiter.” The goal is to have within a few years a mechanism whereby the most energy efficient LEDs possible can be created without seeing manufacturing costs increase. It is believed that this futuristic light will also be hue adjustable, meaning that, for example, “by slightly increasing the blue, we can make it more suitable for daylight. By turning down the blue and increasing the reddish yellow, we can make it softer, more suitable for night.”

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