Could Incandescent Light Bulbs Make a Comeback?

Back in June of 2015, we blogged about the phase-out of incandescent light bulbs in the U.S., and how your only real options for lighting efficiency would be LED light bulbs and CFL light bulbs. This blog was a prediction of how we thought LED bulbs would trump CFLs in the near future, and we were pretty dead on. In February of 2016, we blogged about GE (General Electric) ceasing production of CFL light bulbs to focus their efforts on LED light bulbs because of their longterm energy-saving costs and high energy efficiency. Today, we came across an interesting article online that reads: “Scientists Build a Better Incandescent Light Bulb… Six Years After Last US Factory Closes”. Could it be possible that incandescent light bulbs make a comeback?


One of the reasons why the U.S. government mandated that incandescent light bulbs be phased out in the first place was because the bulbs create more heat than visible light (95% heat, 5% light), compared to the new technology of LED and CFL bulbs, creating an inefficient form of light source.


Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers have discovered a way to take the wasted heat from an incandescent light bulb, and turn it back into “recycled” light energy. The MIT researchers were able to do this by using a form of photonic crystal that surrounds a metal filament. This photonic crystal structure takes the radiating heat and reflects it like a mirror, back to the metal filament so that it can produce visible light.


Using this photonic crystal structure, the researchers redirected the heat into light and produced a 6.6% luminous efficiency (how efficient electricity is converted into visible light), triple of what the standard incandescent light bulb is able to produce. In comparison, LED bulbs reach 15% efficiency. Researchers think that it’s possible they can make their new incandescent light bulbs up to 40% efficient!


So, the question becomes: will incandescent light bulbs make a comeback? It’s hard to say. If the MIT researchers can produce 40% efficiency while keeping costs low with the use of these photonic crystal structures, there may be a chance that we see factories opening up again for incandescent light bulb production. It wouldn’t be too far-fetched that new technology can revitalize an old product that ceased production. Ultimately, the cost and efficiency would determine if the government and manufacturers like GE take interest in bringing back the infamous incandescent light bulb.