A new glowing plastic that could change the lighting industry

Neon sign maker Bill Ellwood of Ellwood Signs works on bending letters into shape on May 16, 2011 in London, England.

Wake Forrest phyics professor David Carroll has just come up with a better way to replace energy-wasting light bulbs, using plastics and nanotechnology. And he's bullish about buy in from consumers.

"They want a lamp that has the warm glow that they use to love, but they want something more efficient," says Carroll. "That's exactly what we're offering. It's round--it's actually made from plastic so you can bounce it off the floor and then plug it in and it'll still work."

Carroll's plastic lights can be made into rectangles for office ceilings or bulb shapes for home, none of this loopy corkscrew business you see with compact fluorescents. Bright? Carroll says, oh yeah, they're bright... and are as energy efficient as LEDs, but cheaper. When you factor in the energy savings, he believes they could be 25 percent less expensive than bulbs of the Thomas Edison variety. But surely these economics mean the new lights have to be made by cheap labor overseas. Carroll says, no, he's partnering with a company to make them stateside.

"We have the well-educated workforce and " says Carroll. "And why does it make sense to do it in the United States. Mainly because we produce these using printing technology, and we're very good at that. Alpha production is beginning in 2013."

What's not to like? Maybe the name? Field Induced Polymer Electroluminescent lights: the FIPEL, rhymes with nipple or tipple. That's a little wierd to say--but hey, stranger things have made it big in the marketplace despite terrible names. 


Under the cloak of night, an artist put up satirical ads in New York -- a silhouette version of a drone firing a missile at a family running scared. "NYPD Drones: Protection When You Least Expect it" the posters say. The images are signed by an artist named Essam, full name is Essam Attia. But he allegedly didn't pay for the poster locations and he did include an official-looking NYPD logo. The other day, police busted the 29 year old artist. Charges include 56 counts of criminal possession of a forged instrument, presumably the posters. Police say they also found an unloaded .22 pistol under his bed.

Earlier this year, a digital rights group was able to get its hands on a list of the government entities that have applied to fly drones. The list includes several police departments but not, as yet, the NYPD. Jennifer Lynch is a staff attorney of at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. She says we're in an important moment.

"We're sort of at the beginning stages of drone flights in the United States," says Lynch. "I think we're at a time where we can debate when and where these unmanned drones should be flown and what they should be used for. The most important thing at this point is to be able to get records from the FAA, so that we can talk to law enforcement agencies and the federal government and really make good policies." 

Lynch's group got the list of drone applicants through the Freedom of Information Act.

The legendary inventor Nikolas Tesla wanted to distribute electricity by broadcasting it through a big, mushroom shaped copper antenna. Didn't happen. But there's word Apple has filed a patent on a new way to charge mobile devices without using a wire. Typical systems coming on the market now require the charger to come into physical contact with the chargee... like a beer on a coaster, only its your phone instead of a pint of pilsner. Apple's idea is to use magnetic resonance to charge stuff within maybe a yard of the charger, no touching. Will this also make your hair stand on end? Not clear. It's just a patent application, not a finished device. Yet.

About the author

David Brancaccio is the host of Marketplace Morning Report. Follow David on Twitter @DavidBrancaccio

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