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Student wins $30,000 to develop more efficient LEDs

Ming Ma

Ming Ma, doctoral student at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

A US student has won a $30,000 (£20,080) grant to develop a new way of manufacturing LEDs.

Ming Ma, who is studying at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Insititute in New York State in the USA, beat three other students to the Lemelson-Rensselaer grant after proposing changes to the way the surfaces of diodes are designed. Ming’s invention could possibly allow more light to be produced and reduce the environmental impact and overall cost of producing light.

Each LED Ming designed would emit 70 per cent of the light produced, whereas most of the LEDs on the market emit 25 per cent of the light they produce. This is made possible by creating thousands of minute star-shaped pillars on the LED surface, composed of five nanolayers specifically engineered to help carry the light into the surrounding air. Ming dubbed the nanoscale structures as “graded-refractive index (GRIN) structures”.

The doctoral student says: “LEDs have high efficiency compared to the traditional light sources, but they are not high compared to their own theoretical limit. If you can increase light output, you would have even higher efficiency.”

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