Fluorescent Lighting Gets a Makeover

Oct. 21, 2015

New phosphors to preserve efficiency and replace rare earth elements.

While LED lighting will likely replace fluorescent tubes at some point, low-cost linear fluorescent lighting is expected to remain a dominant feature for more than a decade. Because the current triphosphor blend discovered more than 30 years ago requires rare earth elements, researchers have identified new phosphors that are more environmentally friendly.

Rare earth elements are hard to come by in the U.S. The phosphors in today’s fluorescent lighting consume more than 1,000 metric tons of rare earth oxides yearly, most of which is imported.

A team of scientists have found replacements for these scare elements: a green phosphor that reduces the terbium content by 90% and eliminates lanthanum and a red phosphor that completely replaces europium and yttrium oxide. These proposed phosphors appear to be close to meeting stringent requirements for long lamp survivability, high efficiency, precise color rendition and low costs.

“The fundamental physics of these phosphors is compelling, and we are taking the next steps to assess their feasibility for commercial lighting by evaluating chemical issues and improving the synthetic procedures,” says Steve Payne, a leader on the project.

The findings were discovered through a collaboration between General Electric, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Critical Materials Institute at the Ames Laboratory.

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