Researchers Win Award for Discovery That Could Replace Light Bulb

Nashville (AP) -- Popular Mechanics magazine has given an award to a team of Vanderbilt University scientists.

The result of the researchers' discovery could be greatly reducing the world's energy consumption.

Associate Professor Sandra Rosenthal led the team that discovered nearly a year ago a new way to make solid-state lights that produce a white light.

At the time of what Rosenthal calls the "good accident," research associate James McBride had asked the team's third member, Michael Bowers, to make batches of smaller and smaller semiconductor crystals, using Cadmium Selenide.

McBride shot a laser into a small glass cell of the crystals, expecting to see blue light. Instead, the light was white.

The surprise discovery was that the tiny crystals can absorb blue light produced by light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, and emit a warm white light.

The researchers say if they can learn how to get the quantum dots to consistently produce white light more efficiently, then quantum-dot-coated LEDs could someday replace light bulbs.

LEDs use a minuscule amount of electricity, compared with incandescent.

The team is currently working on ways to make the LEDs brighter.

Copyright 2006 by the Associated Press. All rights reserved.