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Needed: a truly green source of light (besides the sun). Any bright ideas?

Fossil fuel prices are dropping so all the folks who rushed into the alternative energy branch of greentech are going to be slogging up a steep and slippery slope for some time. But can't somebody come up with a good idea for artificial lighting that is both more efficient than incandescent, and greener than compact flourescent?
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Written by Harry Fuller, Contributor on

Fossil fuel prices are dropping so all the folks who rushed into the alternative energy branch of greentech are going to be slogging up a steep and slippery slope for some time. But can't somebody come up with a good idea for artificial lighting that is both more efficient than incandescent, and greener than compact flourescent? Perhaps a killer app for LED [definition here]? There's not any shortage of customers for good electric lighting that is both clean AND economical.

There is a steady increase in the use of compact flourescent bulbs across the U.S. Some use is being pushed by local or state regulations and building codes. Some is simply because the bulbs are more energy efficient. Here's the federal government site promoting the use of CFLs, 70% less energy for Energy Star rated bulbs, it says. Australia was the first nation ban incandescent bulbs which are now being discouraged in Wal-Mart stores, and countries from Japan to Ireland.

But there are problems, and expenses attached beyond simply buying the bulbs. A recent California Lighting Task Force Report looked at the issue of CFL disposal (Compact Flourescent Lighting). They found a cost of $20-million over three years to get a disposal and recycling program going. The low-end estimates are that it would cost 30-50 cents per bulb for recycling. Bulb disposal volume in Califonria alone is expected to soon reach tens of millions annually. With CFLs, it's the mercury problem.

THERE IS NO CFL WITHOUT MERCURY INSIDE.

Here's what the Task Force report says about CFL bulbs and their mercury content. "Fluorescent lighting, the most widely available type of energy-efficient lighting, requires a small amount of mercury in order to function. Mercury is a natural element that has many useful properties, but is also a powerful neurotoxin that causes a variety of adverse health effects. "Once it is released (when a fluorescent bulb breaks), mercury is very mobile in the environment. It can enterthe atmosphere and be transported great distances. Mercury in the atmosphere is eventually deposited on land or in water bodies, where certain microorganisms can convert it to methylmercury, a highly toxic form that accumulates in the fatty tissue of fish (and also in humans who eat these fish). Fish and shellfish consumptionis the main source of methylmercury exposure to humans."

Now California has a long and ugly history with mercury contamination. Back during the placer mining days mercury was used to separate the gold flakes from the ordinary flakes. So it was soon in the state's rivers, estuaries, coastal water, shellfish, fish and humans.

While pushing the use of CFLs, the federal government does own up to the mercury issue. They present stats showing that CFLs actually reduce overall mercury in the air and water because the number 1 source of mercury pollution in America are coal-burning electrical plants. Using efficient CFLs reduces need for electricity, that reduces mercury produced by electrical generation, etc. etc.

Have you noted that many CFLs are being made now in China? Worldwatch says they make about 85% of the global CFL supply in China. No surprise. And you don't even want to begin to imagine how they're dealing with mercury disposal or leaks there.

So, can't some bright VC fund a brilliant researcher who then invent a better LED, one that could light a room, or an entire auditorium, perhaps give it a soft glow not a harsh white spotlight?

THERE COULD BE A NEW LIGHT AT THE END OF THE OLD LIGHT

Courtesy: lightoftomorrow.com

Can LEDs be the right answer? Worldwatch is cautiously optimistic, saying in a few years LEDs could be cheaper to buy and operate than CFLs are now. Here's some of their conclusion: " LEDs also have several drawbacks, such as high cost (up to $60 per bulb), a harsh white light that con­sumers find unappealing, and a more focused light stream that is not well suited for ambient lighting. These problems have prevented LEDs from catching on with consumers. But as they are improved through new research and development, LEDs could become the next genera­tion of energy-efficient lighting."

Here's one website already selling a wide variety of home and office application LEDs.

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