Ultra-powerful laser can turn light bulbs into power-sippers

May 30th, 2009 - 2:31 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, May 30 (ANI): Optics researchers at the University of Rochester, US, have developed an ultra-powerful laser can turn regular incandescent light bulbs into power-sippers.

The process could make a light as bright as a 100-watt bulb consume less electricity than a 60-watt bulb while remaining far cheaper and radiating a more pleasant light than a fluorescent bulb can.

The laser process creates a unique array of nano- and micro-scale structures on the surface of a regular tungsten filament-the tiny wire inside a light bulb-and theses structures make the tungsten become far more effective at radiating light.

“We’ve been experimenting with the way ultra-fast lasers change metals, and we wondered what would happen if we trained the laser on a filament,” said Chunlei Guo, associate professor of optics at the University of Rochester.

“We fired the laser beam right through the glass of the bulb and altered a small area on the filament,” Guo added.

“When we lit the bulb, we could actually see this one patch was clearly brighter than the rest of the filament, but there was no change in the bulb’s energy usage,” Guo further added.

The key to creating the super-filament is an ultra-brief, ultra-intense beam of light called a femtosecond laser pulse.

The laser burst lasts only a few quadrillionths of a second.

To get a grasp of that kind of speed, consider that a femtosecond is to a second what a second is to about 32 million years.

During its brief burst, Guo’s laser unleashes as much power as the entire grid of North America onto a spot the size of a needle point.

That intense blast forces the surface of the metal to form nanostructures and microstructures that dramatically alter how efficiently can radiate from the filament.

In addition to increasing the brightness of a bulb, Guo’s process can be used to tune the color of the light as well.

In 2008, his team used a similar process to change the color of nearly any metal to blue, golden, and gray, in addition to the black he’d already accomplished.

Though Guo cannot yet make a simple bulb shine pure blue, for instance, he can change the overall radiated spectrum so that the tungsten, which normally radiates a yellowish light, could radiate a more purely white light.

Guo’s team has even been able to make a filament radiate partially polarized light, which until now has been impossible to do without special filters that reduce the bulb’s efficiency.

By creating nanostructures in tight, parallel rows, some light that emits from the filament becomes polarized.

The team is now working to discover what other aspects of a common light bulb they might be able to control. (ANI)

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