Grand Prize Winner, "Create the Future" 2007 Design Contest
- Created on Tuesday, 01 April 2008
Winner of $20,000
Litroenergy™, a New Light Source Material
A patent-pending light source material, Litroenergy™ contains self-luminous micro particles about the size of grains of salt called Litrospheres that emit light continuously for more than 12 years (half-life point) without any exposure to a light or other energy such as sunlight.
The microparticles have a 5,000-pound crush resistance, and are not affected by cold or heat. This extremely low-cost material offers 24/7 light, which can be injection-molded or added to paint, providing a stable and constant light source that gives off no UV rays. The material is lead-free, and non-radioactive. It is designed to emit almost any color of light desired, including white.
According to Steve Stark, Litroenergy is a fundamental change or shift in how we think about lighting. Said Stark, “When you think about all that goes into creating light, Edison had a long road ahead when he created his first light bulb with all the wires and infrastructure to make his light bulb work. We found a way to eliminate almost everything associated with how we’ve come to understand how we create light.” The fill rate of the material is about 20% when put into plastics, and it creates a bright light. “Over the course of creating this material, we publicly stated that we have a 20-Watt intensity of light from the Litrospheres, and we’re increasing that, and we’re approaching a 40-Watt luminescent type of brightness, which really puts it in contention with conventional lighting,” Stark said.
Stark explained that the material is extremely safe. “If the microspheres were to be compromised, which is very unlikely, the minute amount of any kind of radioactivity is negligible. Our material is encased — it’s a sphere — so if it was digested, there is no harm because we’ve blocked any kind of radioactivity emissions from the material. If it was cracked, it would take a lot of pressure, and the likelihood of any type of material being released is miniscule.”
Plastic injection molding and paint are the primary vehicles for the material. Litroenergy glowing microspheres are added to the plastic injection molding process so that the plastic that’s coming out is fluorescing.
Applications for the material are literally limited only by one’s imagination. The safety aspects of the product are the main applications. For example, the material can be used to illuminate a bike’s wheels, as well as the cyclist’s helmet, and in synthetic thread for the cyclist’s illuminated clothing. Said Stark, “When you’re riding a bike and you’re on your way home and it starts to get dark, you want to be seen. This application of the material for safety, I think, is really going to be the frontrunner.
Other applications include illuminating the inside of military submarines where conventional electrical signatures would be detected; automobile wheels; traffic signs; lighted safety tape; lighted life rafts and flotation equipment; and light safety markings and equipment. After September 11, there began a huge demand for glow-in-the-dark material in building exit ways and stairwells to show the way out without electricity.
The material also has application in growing crops of food stocks. The ability to have 24/7 light on plant material can double the growth, according to Stark. “That is really an exciting application because the world population is growing and we need to find creative ways to feed the world. I think we might have an application that could really benefit everyone.”
Added Stark, “Twenty percent of global production of electricity is used to produce light. That’s a huge drop in electrical use if Litroenergy takes off everywhere. We’d love to tell the whole world about our amazing discovery and exactly how it works, but we can’t. In retrospect, I think we’ll look back and everyone will know exactly how we were able to produce this material safely and consistently, and produce stable, 24/7 light. I’m excited to see where the world goes with our material.”