It’s a light bulb, Jim, but definitely not as we know it. The NanoLeaf NL120BN takes the old light bulb motif and wraps it up in a completely new packaging. The idea is to use ultra low power LED bulbs, such as you find in flashlights, and combine them in a faceted module to deliver conventional levels of illumination and brilliance. They’re saying it’s the world’s most energy efficient light bulb.
It’s not the prettiest thing in the world, but the end result is a bulb that consumes 10W of power but delivers a truly impressive 75W (1200 lumens) of illumination. The most interesting part, however, is the fact that the light does not degrade with time, as happens with compact fluorescent or halogen bulbs currently.
The NanoLeaf is rated for 30,000 hours, which is 3 to 4 times more than the current crop of CFL low energy bulbs, and the developers claim that it is not affected at all by frequent power on and off. The bulb is also very cool running, which means it can be used in places where heat is a problem (such as enclosed mounts or shades). It has a color temperature of about 3500 K (which is quite cool) and a CRI of 70, which is again not as warm as you’ll get with conventional household lighting.
LED bulbs work by moving electrons around within a semiconductor structure (you can read more on how LED lights work here), and because they’re solid state there’s none of the gas burning of conventional bulbs and low energy fluorescent bulbs. This is not the only LED light bulb of this type, there’s also the GeoBulb, but this is much less powerful.
The big problem with LED bulbs is cost, although here again the NanoLeaf product seems to be beating a new path. The product is currently available on pre-order (see below) for $35.00, which is very reasonable when you consider the lifespan of the product. The bulb is, however, not usable with dimmer switches.
As with any ultra new technology there have been problems with getting the technology exactly right. The Canadian development team started shipping product earlier this year after a successful Kickstarter project, but had to call a halt because of failing lamps. It turns out that a microscopic defect in the LED bulbs themselves was causing failure from thermal cycling as the lamp went on and off.
The team has now scrapped all old LEDs and are re-starting production with a newly specified LED bulb which seems to have cured the problem. This really is cutting edge technology, and it’s interesting to see how committed the small company is to getting it right. Shipments are due to re-start in Jan 2014.