Skip to Content

A Light Bulb that Breathes

The perfect light bulb. But at $50?
May 8, 2012

Maybe you’re one of those people who thinks it’s hard to get excited about a light bulb. Then you’re also one of those people who hasn’t heard about General Electric’s new 100-watt equivalent LED bulb, just introduced at the Light Fair conference in Las Vegas.

CNET and the Cleveland Plain Dealer have the specs. (GE has an LED lab in Cleveland.) GE’s calling it the Energy Smart LED bulb, and though it gives off the same amount of light as a traditional 100-watt bulb, GE’s bulb only consumes 27 watts. The bulb gives off 1,600 lumens, and will last for 23 years at three hours per day. For the specs junkie: the bulb’s “color temperature” is 3000 Kelvin. For the layperson: that’s white light.

The greatest innovation embedded in the new GE light bulb appears to be something called “synthetic jet cooling technology,” from a company called Nuventix. LED lamps produce a lot of heat, which can shorten the bulbs’ lives. But a diaphragm embedded in the GE bulb vibrates to create a current of cool air. That’s pretty high-tech for a light bulb, and Nuventix reportedly collaborated with GE for over a year to miniaturize the tech. (More details on that technology, which resembles the vibrating surface of a speaker, can be found here.) As John Funk of the Plain Dealer points out, here’s something we sure haven’t seen in a bulb before: breathing.

You can’t get the Energy Smart LED bulb just yet. It’s expected to come out in early 2013, and there’s no definitive word on price (a $39-$49 figure has been circulating). Other high-end LED’s can run as steep as $60 (to wit, the Philips L Prize LED Bulb; there’s an instant rebate of $10, though). Even though the bulbs are pricey, they inevitably amount to lifetime saving in energy costs, given the longevity and efficiency of the bulbs. Businesses have wised up on savings. But for the average consumer, overcoming sticker shock is likely to remain a major obstacle for widespread adoption of this technology. We have been trained to think of bulbs as light, cheap, semi-disposable products. But as a Home Depot employee put it recently: “It’s the last bulb you’ll ever have to buy.”

It may take some getting used to, but LED’s are inevitably the future–not least because legislation has actually mandated the development of more efficient bulbs and the phasing out of ones that are less so. Philips, among others, debuted similar LED bulbs at the conference. Incandescent bulbs are beginning their slow fade to black, as another iconic technology makes way for the new. 

If Thomas Edison is watching somewhere, thanks for your bright idea–but it’s about to burn out.

Keep Reading

Most Popular

individual aging affects covid outcomes concept
individual aging affects covid outcomes concept

Anti-aging drugs are being tested as a way to treat covid

Drugs that rejuvenate our immune systems and make us biologically younger could help protect us from the disease’s worst effects.

Europe's AI Act concept
Europe's AI Act concept

A quick guide to the most important AI law you’ve never heard of

The European Union is planning new legislation aimed at curbing the worst harms associated with artificial intelligence.

Uber Autonomous Vehicles parked in a lot
Uber Autonomous Vehicles parked in a lot

It will soon be easy for self-driving cars to hide in plain sight. We shouldn’t let them.

If they ever hit our roads for real, other drivers need to know exactly what they are.

crypto winter concept
crypto winter concept

Crypto is weathering a bitter storm. Some still hold on for dear life.

When a cryptocurrency’s value is theoretical, what happens if people quit believing?

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.