A few years ago, we were excitedly talking about plasma lighting and discussing the impact the lawsuit against PFO would have on the hobby. Fast-forward a few years and we have LEDs making a huge impact on the hobby and plasma struggling to find its place. Now there is a new technology, FIPEL, that uses a plastic polymer that promises a better quality of light that can be made into nearly any shape.
This new technology is called field-induced polymer electroluminescent (FIPEL) lighting developed by a team at Wake Forest University. FIPEL is made from three layers of a white-emitting polymer infused with nanomaterials that glow when stimulated by electrical current, creating a white light that is closer to the sun’s spectrum than other forms of lighting.
Dr. David Carroll of Wake Forest invented this light that tackles many of the issues surrounding the current lighting options on the market. Gone are the problems of mercury, humming fluorescent lights and other downfalls of traditional lighting , with FIPEL the performance is said to be at a level on par or better than LED lights.
“What we’ve found is a way of creating light rather than heat,” said Carroll. “Our devices contain no mercury, they contain no caustic chemicals and they don’t break as they are not made of glass.”
“There’s a limit to how much brightness you can get out of them,” he added. “If you run too much current through them they melt.”
The FIPEL bulbs don’t have the bluish tint associated with most LED lights, which is perfect in work or classroom settings, but may not be the best for a reef aquarium. These show promise in allowing for more creative forms of lighting, but it is too early to tell if these are sensitive to outside environments such as the harsh effects saltwater can have on things.
While Carroll notes there has been a working prototype in his lab for almost 10 years, the technology could enter the commercial market as he eludes to the interest of a “corporate partner” that could produce the new bulbs at scale, with the first run expected in 2013.
As the new technology shows promise as an alternative light source, the jury is still out to see if the FIPEL technology could produce enough light in the right spectrum to be a significant option in the hobby.