Graduates of the University of Toronto have designed what they claim is “the world’s most efficient light bulb.” Gimmy Chu, Christian Yan, and Tom Rodinger met while working on U of T’s solar car team, and have reunited to develop the NanoLight, a new LED light bulb which they launched on January 7.
A traditional incandescent light bulb that gives off 1600 lumens (the unit used to measure the amount of visible light emitted) requires 100 W of power, but these incandescents are currently being phased out in favour of the more efficient compact fluorescent (CFL) light bulbs, which require only 24 W to give off the same amount of light. Newer to the lighting scene are LED lightbulbs, which need only 20 W, but none of these existing options can hold a candle to the NanoLight, which uses only 12 W to produce the standard measure of 1600 Lumens. The NanoLight LED light bulb also lasts four times longer than its CFL counterpart. The longevity and efficiency of the NanoLight will make it extremely attractive to consumers, and the bulb has aesthetic merits too: its unique multifaceted design has been likened by CNET to “an origami bulb of LEDs.” The unique design allows light to be broadcast in all directions, a feat that has traditionally been a challenge for LED lightbulbs.
The NanoLight uses printed circuit board technology to give the bulb its structure, and to provide the necessary internal circuitry. This engineering innovation, combined with the most energy-efficient LEDs currently available and a special heat-dissipating outer coating, allowed the inventors to omit the heat sink normally required in LED bulbs. The NanoLight runs at a lower temperature than other light bulbs, so it can be used safely in enclosed fixtures and, unlike some CFL bulbs, it becomes fully bright as soon as it is turned on.
The NanoLight is not without its flaws, however. It suffers from a low Colour Rendering Index (CRI) — a measure of how closely the emitted light can reproduce colours of objects compared to a natural light source. One practical challenge listed on the company’s Kickstarter page is the mass production of NanoLight bulbs: the complex shape of the printed circuit board and the atypical mounting of the LEDs will make assembly by machine difficult, but the bulb’s inventors remain optimistic that they will overcome this challenge.
Kickstarter is a for-profit website that facilitates funding for creative projects like the NanoLight. The funding comes not from investors, but rather through “backers” who receive no equity or ownership of the projects they back. As the Kickstarter website puts it, “Backing a project is more than just giving someone money, it’s supporting their dream to create something that they want to see exist in the world.” The backers pledge towards the goal set by the project creators. The creators only receive money if they achieve their funding goal for the project within the time allotted. So far the NanoLight has received over $160,000 in pledges, greatly exceeding the goal of $20,000, with weeks left until the March 8 deadline.
To encourage pledges, the creators offer incentives including a 10 W NanoLight (75 W equivalent) in return for a $30 pledge, and a 12 W NanoLight (100 W equivalent) for a $45 pledge. As well as overwhelming support on Kickstarter, the NanoLight has also enjoyed substantial media attention; it has been featured on CTV News, tech website CNET, and the business section of the Toronto Star. In a recent CTV News interview, company strategist Chu indicated that the U of T alumni inventors have big plans. “Our focus isn’t just going to be on LED lighting but it’s also on solar technologies; we have some other products in the works and we’re hoping to be able to release it to you guys soon.”
In these energy-conscious times, any innovation that increases the efficiency with which people use energy is welcome, and potentially profitable.