A light bulb that could earn you $10 million

Posted by Samantha Rose Hunt

Chicago (IL) - With the current state of our economy, it’s a no brainer that many of us could use an extra $10 million. Here is one way to get your hand on this amount: The Department of Energy is holding a competition that envisions a new generation of light bulbs: The L Prize will reward an individual or organization with a prize money of $10 million, who creates a viable solid-state LED replacement for the standard 60 watt incandescent bulb. A second prize will also be awarded for any company creating a replacement for a PAR 38 halogen reflector lamp.
 
The contest, which was originally announced last May, will hold its winners to tough criteria. Where the standard bulb is involved, it must produce light equivalent to today’s 60 watt light bulbs but only use 10 watts of energy, it must also be capable of lasting longer than 25,000 hours (using this light bulb four hours each day, the bulb would last more than 17 years). The halogen replacement bulb will have to be able to create the equivalent of 60 watts of light, but use less than 11 watts.

The idea behind this contest is that LED lighting is gaining traction and is expected to be widely used soon. Conceivably, this invention could be a major milestone towards the use of LEDs in general usage areas. According to the Department of Energy, if every socked in the United States that currently has a 60-watt bulb were to switch to the envisioned LED bulb, the country would be able to conserve 34 terawatt-hours of electricity per a year. This amount is enough to light all of Las Vegas for two years.

Though it isn’t a requirement, the guidelines also mention that the standard replacement bulb should cost no more than $8 its third year on the market.

The product that wins the contest will be promoted strongly by different utilities throughout the country, it could potentially be included in television campaigns, and will automatically qualify for Energy Star status. The company that wins the contest will be responsible for producing at least 250,000 units the first year, and the production of the LED chip has to occur within the United States, a speaker for the Department of Energy said.

There are some LED-based replacements for light bulbs already available, but they cost about $80 - $100 each and aren’t exactly cheap. One reason for the high cost is a low yield in manufacturing. The L Prize also aims to set a standard for manufacturing, which is expected to weed out poor products and allow consumers to begin utilizing LED lighting economically.