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Will Graphene Light Bulbs Replace LEDs?

The future is already here when it comes to light bulbs, and it happened so fast that LEDs didn’t even see it coming. But, will graphene bulbs really be so quick to hopscotch LED technology?</br></br>Hold on. Maybe we should back up for a second. What’s graphene again?</br></br><strong>Lean, Mean Graphene</strong></br></br>Graphene has been on the scene since Andre Geim discovered it in 2004 at the University of Manchester by peeling a one-atom-thick layer from a cube of graphite. The layer, then dubbed graphene, behaved in different ways than its source material because of the different configuration in carbon atoms.</br></br>The material is very strong, very light and conducts electricity better than any other known substance. Yet, even though these properties were quickly identified during the discovery phase, no one could figure out a purpose for the substance. As recently as 2014, The New Yorker <a title="The New Yorker" href="http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/12/22/material-question" target="_blank">published a piece basically calling graphene commercially useless</a>.</br></br><strong>Disruptive Technology</strong></br></br>Now, less than a year after The New Yorker’s very reasoned prediction, it seems people care even less about the problems graphene will cause in other, more well-established industries when confronted with its undeniable potential.</br></br>Oh yeah, except for the graphene light bulb, which is poised to be "kind of a big deal."</br></br>After Geim’s discovery – and his Nobel Peace Prize in Physics in 2010 – the University of Manchester invested tens of millions of dollars into a graphene research facility. And, in less than five years, it was there that the first graphene light bulb was developed.</br></br><strong>Graphene Light Bulbs</strong></br></br>The initial graphene bulb design, which is expected to hit store shelves later this year in the United Kingdom, is a marriage between graphene and LED technology that creates a bulb <a title="Washington Post" href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/innovations/wp/2015/04/02/why-the-graphene-light-bulb-could-switch-on-a-new-era-of-innovation/" target="_blank">that will last 10 percent longer than any other bulb on the market</a> and doesn’t cost any more to produce.</br></br>This doesn’t sound very amazing, but the speed with which they’ve brought graphene to the market is impressive, even if it is coupled with LED technology.</br></br>And, that's not necessarily a weakness. There are many who argue it needed to complement already-existing industry innovations (like LED bulbs) to be accepted by power players who have already invested billions in these various technologies.</br></br><strong>Graphene's Future</strong></br></br>This, ultimately, may be what determines how fast further development will take place, particularly in the computer electronics field. Some speculate that graphene will replace silicon because of its smaller size and superior conductivity, which has tech moguls with stakes in silicon very nervous.</br></br>But, does this mean you should wait to replace your bulbs with LEDs because there’s something new and better around the corner?</br></br>Probably not. Market share for graphene bulbs will remain low for quite some time, and further improvement will take even longer. So, it’s still a good idea to save with LEDs now, while graphene technology and the wizards at the brand-spanking-new <a title="National Graphene Institute " href="http://www.materials.manchester.ac.uk/our-research/cross-cutting-research/uom/national-graphene-institute/" target="_blank">National Graphene Institute</a> figure out their next move.
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