GE, Maryland researchers demo jet-inspired LED bulb

The solid-state age is upon us: GE and University of Maryland researchers have demonstrated an LED light bulb that's smaller, lighter and brighter -- thanks to jet engine cooling technology.

Scientists from the University of Maryland and General Electric have successfully demonstrated a 1,500-lumen LED light bulb that uses jet engine cooling technology.

The LED bulb, which emits the same amount of light as a standard, 100-watt halogen PAR38 bulb, was announced on Thursday during GE's "Future of Lighting" symposium in Niskayuna, N.Y.

The project, part of a two-year solid-state lighting program with the U.S. Department of Energy, aims to speed up the commercialization and adoption of the light-emitting diode bulb.

In conjunction with GE fluidics experts, Maryland engineering professors Bongtae Han and Avram Bar-Cohen developed the cooling technologies of the bulb, which takes a page from the playbook of GE's aviation and energy businesses.

In those industries, the "dual cool jets" cooling tech involves controlling airflow and combustion to improve the performance and efficiency of aircraft engines and gas and wind turbines.

In the new LED bulb, the same cooling tech is being used to improve the heat transfer rate and reduce the number of chips in the lamp.

Here's how it works: the "dual cool jets" are actually tiny micro-fluidic, bellows-type devices that create high-velocity jets of air, which rush over the LED heat sink. That process increases the heat transfer rate to more than ten times that of natural convection, allowing the LED to operate at high currents without losses in efficiency or lifetime.

That thermal management also means less LED chips are necessary in a given lamp to create the same amount of lumen output. And since LED chips cost the manufacturer money, it lowers the cost of making the lamp, as well as makes it smaller and lighter.

Though the researchers are in the final stages of the DOE project, they're still studying ways to improve the reliability and lifetime of LED lighting.

"This is a revolutionary cooling technology with great promise," said GE mechanical engineer Mehmet Arik in a statement. "It has the potential to help us take LED lighting performance and efficiency to new heights."

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