Indian American leads project to make CFLs more efficient

April 8th, 2009 - 4:00 pm ICT by IANS  

Toronto, April 8 (IANS) Compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) use just one-third of the energy that old incandescent bulbs use to provide the same amount of light. Now CFLs are going to be even more efficient, thanks to research being led by an Indian American scientist.
CFLs also last 1,000 times longer than incandescent bulbs. However, Queen’s University researchers addressed two problems with CFLs - they don’t work with dimmer switches, and their energy efficiency is compromised because of a problem known as poor power factor.

Actually only part of the energy a CFL consumes is used to power the bulb, resulting in wasted power.

“Consumer-grade CFLs need to be compact and inexpensive. Until now, the complicated circuitry needed to power these bulbs most efficiently has been too large and too costly for consumer-grade compact fluorescents,” said Praveen Jain, professor of electrical and computer engineering at Queen’s University.

“In fact, when a CFL is used with a dimmer switch, its bulb can burn out sooner than expected.”

The solution emerged when John Lam, a doctoral candidate working with Jain, developed a compact, simplified circuitry and controller design that overcomes the power problem while also meeting consumers’ need for a dimmable, inexpensive CFL, according to a Queen’s release.

The two main challenges were making the technology directly replaceable with existing designs, and economical to produce, said Jain.

“We were able to develop a more power-efficient, dimmable and cost-effective CFL technology that can truly replace the power-hungry incandescent light bulbs. This makes it very attractive to the consumer market,” he added.

The Queen’s innovation is timely, Jain said, since widespread use of today’s less efficient CFLs would reduce expected benefits to the global power grid.

Many countries, including Australia and the European Union, have already begun phasing out incandescent bulbs in favour of the compact fluorescents.

The global market for compact fluorescents is estimated at $80 billion.

Jain did his degree in electrical engineering from Allahabad University in India in 1980, then his Master’s and PhD from the University of Toronto, Canada, in 1984 and 1987 respectively.

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