Today’s Solutions: June 13, 2024

A revolutionary new light bulb uses so little energy it can last decades

Tijn Touber | Jan/Feb 2007 issue
If Anton Philips, the man who co-founded the global electronics firm bearing his name in 1891, could see his great-grandsons today, he would surely be proud. His direct descendents, Frans Otten and Warner Philips, recently introduced a revolutionary new light bulb that uses 90 percent less electricity than the standard bulb and lasts 50 times longer. According to Anton Philips’ descendents, their bulb will burn an impressive 50,000 hours, or 35 years if used four hours a day.
The Pharox, as the invention has been named, is made with light-emitting diode (LED) technology, whereby light is created not with the traditional filaments but using moving electrons. LEDs are semi-conductors that produce light when they come into contact with electricity. Because of LED’s unique characteristics—minimal energy consumption, ease in use and and longevity—they have been used for some time in such items as brake lights, illuminated on/off switches and decorative lighting. Now Lemnis Lighting, the company owned by Otten and Philips, has managed to refine the LED technology so it can be used in standard-sized bulbs.
“An ordinary light bulb wastes an inordinate amount of electricity,” says Otten. Low-energy light bulbs on the market today are a clear improvement; they use an average of five times less energy. But these bulbs come with major disadvantages. The light they generate is cold and they’re not environmentally friendly because they contain mercury vapour. In addition, the life expectancy of low-energy bulbs is substantially reduced when you switch them on and off frequently, which means they’re not well-suited for numerous uses, such as in bathrooms.
Pharox is the first 3.4-watt LED bulb that produces light comparable to an ordinary 40-watt bulb. Lemnis Lighting has managed to produce a bulb that emits a warm white light at a constant level of brightness, unlike others’ previous attempts. Moreover, the bulb is better for the environment than most LED equivalents because no mercury, phosphorous, lead or tungsten is used to give them a warmer colour.
The Lemnis technology reduces the bulb’s electricity consumption by 90 percent. That means that if every household in the Netherlands replaced four ordinary light bulbs used four hours a day each with Pharox bulbs, it would save 1.5 billion kilowatts of energy a year—the same amount used by all the homes in Amsterdam.
At the moment, the bulbs are still pretty pricey—some 30 euros ($38 U.S.) apiece, but Otten says that’s relatively inexpensive: “When you consider the total cost, the bulb is cheap, because you recoup its cost within three years due to the energy savings and still have a working bulb for many more years.”
An aside: The bulb will not be launched by the large Dutch-based multinational Philips corporation, but by the relatively small investment company Tendris. The first 100,000 bulbs will then be marketed by the Dutch energy company Oxxio to its customers.
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