In Brief

Artificial fog used to make laser-based lighting


8 April 2020

A team of scientists has created an artificial fog which combines with lasers to create an alternative lighting system to LED and filament lights.

The EU Graphene Flagship has developed a diffuser that scatters laser light resulting in high brightness at low power. Described as an “artificial fog”, this diffuser may transform lasers into a lighting solution for the first time.

The future applications of these laser-based lights range from car headlights and outdoor floodlights, to smaller products such as projectors and indoor lighting.

This greatly expands on the current use of lasers, which are mostly limited to single colour lasers used in barcode scanners, laser pointers and DVD players.

The study, published in Nature Communications, also shows how laser light can be combined to create white light, a feat previously difficult to achieve. By using a layered, ultra-thin material related to graphene, blue, green and red laser light are combined to create white light that is comfortable for the human eye and indoor settings.

The diffuser is made of hexagonal boron nitride (hBN), which has the same structure as graphene. The material is mostly air (99.99% to be exact) with the remainder made up of a web of semi-transparent and interconnected hBN hollow microtubes. Lasers are able to penetrate deep into the diffuser where they are then strongly and randomly scattered by the nanoscopic walls of the microtubes. When the lasers are optimally balanced this combines to create white light, whilst varying the ratios of red, blue and green lasers can create a spectrum of colours.

Looking forward, team member Felice Torrisi, from the Department of Chemistry at Imperial College London, commented: “We are currently looking into applying this technology for future high-brightness and low-power illumination systems, with an enormous range of applications from indoor lighting to aerospace.”

Although it’s still early days, the new laser systems have the potential to cause large industry disruption as the lights are more energy efficient than both LEDs and older filament light bulbs.

Considering the huge technological disruption already experienced by the arrival of LEDs to the lighting industry, it’s likely to assume that the industry may need to brace itself for another paradigm shift soon.