Today, the incandescent bulb doesn’t have all that much going for it.

They’re not very efficient, their heat makes them a potential household hazard, and since the costs of compact fluorescent bulbs and LED bulbs have dropped considerably, they aren’t even that much of an initial bargain—especially when you consider longterm energy costs.

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Their lacking features have caused the slow phase out of incandescent light bulbs from the lighting aisle. Perhaps the only real appeal of an incandescent bulb is its familiarity, but even the most committed shoppers have started to make a switch.

It looks like the incandescent light bulb is about to join the cassette tape, fax machine, and rotary telephone, unless this new innovation brightens the future of this outdated technology.

Recovering Lost Energy
Scientists at MIT have found a way to use the energy that’s lost in the process of illuminating an incandescent bulb. They have done so by recycling it back into the filament to be emitted as visible light.

By created a specialized reflective structure around an incandescent filament, the lost infrared radiation is captured and absorbed to feed the filament once again.

The process essentially recycles visible light by recovering energy that’s wasted as heat in a traditional incandescent bulb. The energy capturing structure was made from layers of crystal that are able to control different wavelengths of light energy.

By stacking the layers, the team at MIT were able to filter out visible light, while reflecting the infrared energy back into the filament for reuse.

Credit: GerifalteDelSabana

Innovation Beyond Household Lights
When applied in the MIT prototype, the structure improves efficiency from about 2% to 6%, and shows theoretical possibilities for a 40% improvement. The development could potentially make incandescent light bulbs an energy efficient lighting option for the future.

The researchers are still trying to figure how this arrangement could be mass-produced and made affordable for use by the average consumer. Using a structure to reclaim lost energy could also mean big improvements for energy conversion technologies that go beyond the light and beyond new relevance for a 135 year-old breakthrough.

What are your thoughts on this development and new way to recapture energy?

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