Lighting enters the nanotechnologies era

Solutions in each tube contain different size particles corresponding to blue, green and red.

Lighting technologies are in the middle of a major (r)evolution.  Now that incandescent bulbs are already starting to disappear, low consumption bulbs are becoming much more popular while LEDs are just starting to appear on the market.  At the same time, CSTB is already thinking about the lighting of after-tomorrow.  No more light outlets.  They will be replaced by large non-glare low-luminance illuminating surfaces. "The research project in which we are participating considers the problem of lighting in a completely new manner, Christophe Martinsons, the Lighting, Electromagnetism, Electricity Manager, says enthusiastically.  We are attempting to develop illuminating surfaces covering the order of one square meter.  All this is possible by nano-technologies."

Nano-luminophores in the headlines

Particles mixed with proportions calculated to emit white light.

The Luminosurf project is financed by the Unique Interministerial Fund (FIU), and is recognised in the framework of activities carried out by the Axelera competitiveness cluster.  It is composed of many partners including research laboratories and manufacturers (see inset).  The basic principle for development of illuminating surfaces is simple.  At least in theory!  Schematically, it consists of making use of the properties of chemically synthesized nano-luminophores ("quantum dots").  "Once excited by a blue or ultraviolet light source, these small semiconducting crystals return to their stable state while emitting light radiation with a wavelength that depends on their size, says Christophe Martinsons.  Therefore, all that is necessary to obtain very pure white light is to find a good "mix" of crystals!"

A first prototype in 2010

Luminosurf is programmed to start up at the beginning of 2009.  A first prototype of an illuminating surface should be developed during 2010.  By then, research workers involved in this project should have solved a large number of problems one after the other, including synthesis of crystals, colorimetric formulation to obtain perfect white light, deposition of these particles in a thin layer on different types of materials (glass, polymers, etc.).  “CSTB will contribute particularly to everything concerning optical measurements: luminescence, flux, intensity, spectrum uniformity, chromaticity and colour rendering, says Christophe Martinsons.  In the second phase of the project, we will analyse the life cycle of the products made."  The next step will be to find specific applications, both in homes and passenger compartments in public transport or shop façades (illuminating windows, light signs, symbols, etc.).

A project combining research workers and manufacturers

Many partners participate in Luminosurf, coordinated by Philips Eclairage (lighting).  The LITEN (CEA), LMI (Université Blaise Pascal at Clermont-Ferrand) and CSTB laboratories are working on basic research.  They work with manufacturers such as Alstom transport, Baïkowski and Saunier-Plumaz.  The global budget for the project is 5 M€ over three years (2009-2011).