Plastic has become a favorite medium among designers recently. It can be used in conjunction with a 3D printer to produce chairs, lighting fixtures
and a host of other things. Plastic is easily molded into various shapes and patterns that allow the imagination to run wild. Recently, it was discovered that plastic could be illuminated.
A group of talented scientists at Wake Forest University have spent the last ten years studying a new technology called field induced polymer electroluminescence, which is a fancy way to say glowing plastic. Their research showed that electric currents running through the polymer would cause it glow. Then they inserted nano-tubes to see if the glow would increase. The polymer with nano-tubes emits 5 times the light than the polymer without the tubes.
This discovery has led them to play with the concept of creating commercially viable lighting sources, with the hopes of being viable alternative to the CFL, incandescent
bulbs. They have developed products that closely resemble the shape of light bulbs commonly used in most homes and 2x4 sheets of glowing plastic.
The light source is a soft white that mimics sunlight, which most people find soothing, unlike the harsh glare and chronic hum of the compact fluorescent bulb. The glowing plastic would offer a quiet alternative that uses less electricity than the compact fluorescent. It is also much safer compare to the toxic mercury a broken fluorescent unleashes.
Scientists are currently working with another company to make the product available for commercial use later this year. The ability to mold this plastic into various shapes and sizes gives lighting designers an exciting medium to work with. Limited only by their imaginations, talented designers are sure to create new and exciting fixtures while taking modern lighting to the next level.