Bright Lights and Even Brighter Ideas

July 10, 2013

Scientists build their careers on unquenchable curiosity and a constant quest for bright ideas. That’s true for researchers at the Energy Department's national labs, especially as a couple of their recent studies on light-emitting diodes (LEDs) show.

LEDs are the blink-blinks in traffic lights and children’s toys. They also form the images on flat television screens, the numbers on digital clocks and have a wide range of other uses. However, they also have real limitations that Energy Department researchers are trying to overcome: They could be even more efficient, and they only shine in single colors.

In principle, LEDs could be nearly 100% efficient at turning their energy into visible light. In practice, they’re somewhere near 20%, which is still far greater than the 5% of conventional incandescent bulbs. To better understand the source of those efficiencies—and hopefully improve them further—a team of researchers at Brookhaven National Laboratory and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) took a close look at indium gallium nitride (InGaN), a material used in many LEDs. For the complete story, see the Energy Blog.