Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Physicists Create World's Smallest Incandescent Lamp

Date:
May 7, 2009
Source:
University of California - Los Angeles
Summary:
Physicists have created the world's smallest incandescent lamp using a filament made from a single carbon nanotube only 100 atoms wide. Invisible to the untrained eye, the filament appears as a tiny point of light when the lamp is turned on. Even with the best optical microscope it is only just possible to resolve the nanotube's nonzero length. The team uses an electron microscope capable of atomic resolution to image the filament's true structure.

Artist's rendering of the two techniques used to "see" the carbon nanotube lamp: visible light microscopy (top) and electron microscopy (middle).
Credit: Image courtesy of University of California - Los Angeles

In an effort to explore the boundary between thermodynamics and quantum mechanics — two fundamental yet seemingly incompatible theories of physics — a team from the UCLA Department of Physics and Astronomy has created the world's smallest incandescent lamp.

Related Articles


The team, which is led by Chris Regan, a member of the California NanoSystems Institute at UCLA, and includes Yuwei Fan, Scott Singer and Ray Bergstrom, has published the results of their research May 5 in the online edition of the journal Physical Review Letters.

Thermodynamics, the crown jewel of 19th-century physics, concerns systems with many particles. Quantum mechanics, developed in the 20th century, works best when applied to just a few. The UCLA team is using their tiny lamp to study physicist Max Planck's black-body radiation law, which was derived in 1900 using principles now understood to be native to both theories.

The incandescent lamp utilizes a filament made from a single carbon nanotube that is only 100 atoms wide. To the unaided eye, the filament is completely invisible when the lamp is off, but it appears as tiny point of light when the lamp is turned on. Even with the best optical microscope, it is only just possible to resolve the nanotube's non-zero length. To image the filament's true structure the team uses an electron microscope capable of atomic resolution.

With less than 20 million atoms, the nanotube filament is both large enough to apply the statistical assumptions of thermodynamics and small enough to be considered as a molecular — that is, quantum mechanical — system.

"Because both the topic (black-body radiation) and the size scale (nano) are on the boundary between the two theories, we think this is a very promising system to explore," Regan said. "The carbon nanotube that is used as the lamp filament is ideal for their purposes because of its smallness and extraordinary temperature stability."

Carbon nanotubes were only discovered in 1991, but using carbon in a light bulb is not a new idea. Thomas Edison's original light bulbs used carbon filaments. The UCLA research team's light bulb is very similar to Edison's, except that their filament is 100,000 times narrower and 10,000 times shorter, for a total volume only one one-hundred-trillionth that of Edison's.

This research is supported by a National Science Foundation Career grant.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of California - Los Angeles. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Yuwei Fan, S. B. Singer, Raymond Bergstrom, and B. C. Regan. Probing Planck's Law with Incandescent Light Emission from a Single Carbon Nanotube. Physical Review Letters, 2009; 102 (18): 187402 DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.102.187402

Cite This Page:

University of California - Los Angeles. "Physicists Create World's Smallest Incandescent Lamp." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 May 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090506160542.htm>.
University of California - Los Angeles. (2009, May 7). Physicists Create World's Smallest Incandescent Lamp. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090506160542.htm
University of California - Los Angeles. "Physicists Create World's Smallest Incandescent Lamp." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090506160542.htm (accessed November 21, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Matter & Energy News

Friday, November 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

NSA Director: China Can Damage US Power Grid

NSA Director: China Can Damage US Power Grid

AP (Nov. 20, 2014) China and "one or two" other countries are capable of mounting cyberattacks that would shut down the electric grid and other critical systems in parts of the United States, according to Adm. Michael Rogers, director of the National Security Agency and hea Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Latest Minivan Crash Tests Aren't Pretty

Latest Minivan Crash Tests Aren't Pretty

Newsy (Nov. 20, 2014) Five minivans were put to the test in head-on crash simulations by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Takata Offers "sincerest Condolences" To Victims of Malfunctioning Airbag

Takata Offers "sincerest Condolences" To Victims of Malfunctioning Airbag

Reuters - US Online Video (Nov. 20, 2014) U.S. Congress hears from a victim and company officials as it holds a hearing on the safety of Takata airbags after reports of injuries. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
DARPA Creates The Tech You Can Only Dream Of

DARPA Creates The Tech You Can Only Dream Of

Newsy (Nov. 20, 2014) Curious what a rocket-dodging car would look like? How about a robotic pack mule? Or maybe a wearable robot? These are a few of DARPA's projects. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins