Professor Sir Colin Humphreys and his team in the University of Cambridge’s Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy have developed a way of growing a remarkable man-made material – gallium nitride (GaN) – which is being used by British manufacturer Plessey Semiconductors to make light-emitting diodes for home lighting.
LED bulbs have much longer working lives than any other forms of artificial lighting – LED light bulbs in the home would probably have to be changed only once in a person’s lifetime – and they use less energy than other forms of lighting.
Meanwhile, the researchers are continuing their work with what Humphreys describes as a “truly remarkable” material. A new £1 million growth facility funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council has been installed in Cambridge, where the researchers are adjusting minute aspects of the growth process to improve the efficiency of light emission.
The benefits of increased efficiency could go far beyond home lighting, and the researchers are now looking at applications that extend from biomedicine to power electronics.