Everyone knows that a light bulb is symbolic of a new idea. Cartoons and illustrations often show a character with a light bulb over their head when they come up with something brilliant. Thanks to Thomas Edison and Edison Labs in New Jersey, the invention of the light bulb really has illuminated our lives over the past century.
But now the Department of Energy is looking for another “ah-ha” moment. Its calling for a makeover of the ubiqutous bulb. In the L Prize contest, one lucky person or group may win $10 million by creating a light bulb the same size as a 60-watt incandescent bulb, emitting the amount and color of light, use only 10-watts of power, and last more than 25,000 hours. Oh, and at least 75% of the bulb must be made in the U.S.A. In addition to the prize money, the inventor may be considered for federal purchasing agreements, which could prove to be far more lucrative than the initial purse. Twenty-seven partners stand ready to work with the winning company to develop and promote markets for the new product.
According to the website:
The L Prize is the first government-sponsored technology competition designed to spur lighting manufacturers to develop high-quality, high-efficiency solid-state lighting products to replace the common light bulb.
Currently, 60-watt incandescent bulbs comprise 50% of the lighting sold in America (about 425 million bulbs). An amazing 90% of the power consumed by an incandescent light bulb is emitted as heat, rather than as visible light, according to Wikipedia. Astoundingly, 6% of all energy use in the U.S. is attributed to lighting.
By trimming a lightbulb’s energy usage down to 10 watts, and replacing them in homes and businesses across the nation, we could dramatically reduce energy demand, as well as CO2 emissions. Energy-efficient light bulbs could save enough power to light up 17.4 million households and cut carbon emissions by 5.6 million metric tons. We truly do need a light bulb moment to get us there!
LEDs or compact fluorescent bulbs were a good start (as shown above), but the Department of Energy thinks we can do better. Directed by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, the Bright Tomorrow Lighting Prizes (L Prize) competition will bring the “brightest” ideas in lighting together to create a bulb that consumers can trust and the environment can embrace.
Electronics giant, Phillips, recently submitted the first entry in the L-Prize contest. It will take close to a year for the Dept. of Energy to validate the claims that the new bulb meets the criteria.
The winning light bulb will be superior to LEDs in output, and should cost less. The new bulbs should also last even longer than today’s compact fluorescent bulbs, and have a more pleasing, warm glow. The ultimate goal of the L Prize contest: to create “a faithful reproduction of an incandescent bulb’s light from an inexpensive and efficient source.”
In the end, the Department of Energy’s contest will weed out those bulbs that claim to last a long time, or create light at a certain wattage. Failures in those respects have been the bane of the compact florescent bulb’s existence. And some LEDs on the market also fall short. If you would like to enter the L Prize contest, be sure to review the requirements here.
The rigorous standards for the light bulb contest will result in “the most publicly tested bulb ever,” says James Brodrick of the Department of Energy’s Solid State Lighting Program. This means that consumers, as well as the environment, will win in the end.