Vanderbilt University scientists in Nashville, Tenn., say special microscopic beads called quantum dots might soon become the successor to the light bulb.
Until now quantum dots have been known primarily for their ability to produce a dozen different distinct colors of light simply by varying the size of the individual nanocrystals: a capability particularly suited to fluorescent labeling in biomedical applications.
But Vanderbilt chemists have discovered a way to make quantum dots spontaneously produce broad-spectrum white light.
Current light bulbs are made of metal and glass using primarily mechanical processes. Current LEDs are made using semiconductor manufacturing techniques developed in the last 50 years.
But, if the quantum dot approach is successful, it could transform lighting production into a primarily chemical process.
Such a fundamental change might open a wide range of possibilities, such as making almost any object into a light source by coating it with luminescent paint capable of producing light in a rainbow of different shades, including white.