First there was the light bulb. Then came the long fluorescent tube lights. Now it seems that lights will soon come as sheets that you can stick to surfaces. New light technology using aluminum foil sheets now make this possible. Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign produced the sheet lighting by simply immersing aluminum foil from the grocery store in an acid bath which gave it a mesh of holes, and in the process, also turning the aluminum into sapphire (an aluminum oxide) that allows electricity to flow through the sheet without breaking down the structure.
The aluminum-sapphire sheet is then sealed between two sheets of thin glass with the spaces made by the holes filled with a gas. When electricity is made to flow through the contraption, plasma is created in the gas-filled microscopic holes, producing light. The lead researcher, Gary Eden, says that the light it makes is brighter and uses less energy than incandescent bulbs. The product is also extremely cheap and even disposable. The sheet light is less than a millimeter thick with the glass forming the bulk.
Different types of sheet lighting concurrently being developed (like the light-emitting diode or LED sheet light shown at left) will soon revolutionize the way the world is lit. Just imagine surfaces coated with them such that even your backpack, wall, or even car can be covered and personalized.
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