It used to be that green-conscious consumers had to make the difficult choice of either saving energy or risking mercury contamination when choosing a light bulb. Now researchers at RTI International have solved the dilemma. According to Science Daily, they have invented new lighting technology that is more energy-efficient than incandescent bulbs and does not contain mercury, making it more eco-friendly than CFLs.

Even better, the new lighting has demonstrated a more pleasant, aesthetic and calming light than the soul-sucking illumination typically produced by a CFL.

RTI's breakthrough lighting is made possible by utilizing photoluminescent nanofibers that are smaller in diameter than the human hair. When combined with high-performance, nanofiber-based reflectors, the energy-saving device produces light that is five times more efficient than traditional incandescent bulbs. In more technical terms, that means it is capable of generating in excess of 55 lumens of light output per electrical watt consumed.

"Because lighting consumes almost one-fourth of all electricity generated in the United States, our technology could have a significant impact in reducing energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions," said Lynn Davis, Ph.D., director of RTI's Nanoscale Materials Program.

But perhaps the biggest advance of the new technology is its lack of mercury. Despite being energy-efficient, the biggest eco-knock on CFL technologies is the mercury content. Mercury is poisonous, and even small amounts are a concern for landfills and waste incinerators where the mercury from bulbs may be released, contaminating water supplies.

The new technology isn't quite ready for the marketplace yet, so you won't find it in stores, but RTI hopes to have it ready for commercialization within the next three to five years.

Bryan Nelson ( @@brynelson ) writes about everything from environmental problems here on Earth to big questions in space.

New energy-efficient lighting technology contains no mercury
Researchers use nanofibers to create lights that are more energy-efficient than the common incandescent light bulb, more eco-friendly than a CFL — and they gi