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Graphene Light Bulbs? Why Not?

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In the latest application for the wonder material graphene, light bulbs made with the one-atom-thick carbon material are expected to go on sale later this year.

While costing the same as current LED bulbs, or possibly slightly less, the dimmable bulbs will last for years and cut energy costs by 10 percent by capitalizing on graphene's super conductivity, the developers say.

The company developing the new bulb, Canadian-financed Graphene Lighting, has links to Manchester University where graphene was first discovered in 2004.

In that year, Russian scientists Sir Kostya Novoselov and Sir Andre Geim, working at the university, first isolated graphene, an accomplishment that won them the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2010 and brought them knighthoods.

Colin Bailey, deputy vice-chancellor at the university, is also a director of Graphene Lighting.

"The graphene light bulb will use less energy," he says. "We expect it to last longer. The manufacturing costs are lower and it uses more and more sustainable components.

"People are amazed at just how quickly we have managed to take it to market," he says (registration required). "Sometimes it takes 20 years to get a new discovery out there."

The bulb will feature a filament-shaped LED coated with graphene, a million times thinner than a human hair but at the same time 200 times stronger than steel, which will allow the bulb to conduct electricity more efficiently.

Manchester University has recently opened a $90 million National Graphene Institute for research, intended to put the United Kingdom in the "pole position to lead the world in graphene technology," University Chancellor George Osborne said.

The institute, with 200 researchers, has already partnered with more than 35 companies around the world to develop applications for graphene, and the British government has invested $65 million in the institute.

The upcoming light bulb, expected to be on store shelves later this year, is said to be one of the first commercial products manufactured using the material.

Although it has proven difficult so far to manufacture in large quantities, a large number of companies are pursuing graphene technology, predicting wide-ranging applications in the fields of medicine, electronics, semiconductors, batteries and industrial composites.

Chinese and South Korean companies are reportedly investing millions of dollars into research to find practical applications for the material.

Because graphene can absorb light as energy, it is likely to provide extended battery life if used in mobile phones, cameras and various forms of wearable technology.

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