Even from across the exhibit hall at ICFF 2015, they command attention: A row of funny looking things, some black and some white. The shapes resemble the light bulb we know and love, but that’s where the similarities end: The Nanoleaf is a radical new bulb that combines a printed circuit board folded origami-style into a sturdy dodecahedron. More than just a design innovation, it’s also a cost and energy saver, lasting as long as 27 years.
The Nanoleaf bulb was so different, we wanted to know more about its origin, its features, and the technology behind it. We asked Nanoleaf about the bulb’s development, functionality and energy efficiency:
Where did the idea for a better lightbulb come from? How did it evolve?
Nanoleaf was founded by three University of Toronto engineers – Gimmy Chu, Tom Rodinger and Christian Yan – who had a passion for creating products that could really make a difference in the world. The idea for a light bulb actually started off with a solar product they had developed – they were looking for a light bulb to go with it but couldn’t find anything with the energy efficiency they wanted. They realized that the LED technology available at the time didn’t match the efficiency of the products available on the market, so they decided to go ahead and make their own light bulb. This is how the first product, the Nanoleaf One, came to life. Along with the Nanoleaf Bloom – the first ever dimmable bulb that doesn’t require a dimmer switch – they are the world’s most energy efficient light bulbs. Nanoleaf’s latest product, the Nanoleaf Gem, is the world’s most efficient LED décor bulb. It features Nanoleaf’s signature dodecahedron shape along with a frosted white glass finish and emits a gorgeous warm light unlike any other LED today. It’s an LED that artists and designers can finally fall in love with!
How many prototypes did you go through and how long was that process?
When we started creating the first generation Nanoleaf bulbs, we went through several different design iterations. The first few prototypes were actually made using paper to get the shape right. We then started modeling in 3D drawing programs. However, much of it was done the old-school way, through complex mathematics and geometry! We wanted to minimize the amount of materials needed to create this prototype, and utilize the full surface area of the bulb. That’s when the idea popped into Tom’s head – our chief visionary officer. He decided to create a light bulb by placing the circuitry directly on a printed circuit board (PCB), and then folding the PCB origami style into the shape of a traditional bulb. He spent the next two years working on it before it was finally ready to launch.
What kind of energy savings can consumers expect?
Nanoleaf’s light bulbs offer significant energy savings compared to traditional bulbs. The 10W bulbs are equivalent to a 75W incandescent but are 87% more energy efficient and boast a life span of up to 27 years. The Bloom also offers even more savings as it is dimmable without a dimmer switch, so consumers can simply screw in the bulb into any existing fixture they have and control the dimming with a regular on/off light switch. The more you dim, the more you save – at 50% brightness the Bloom uses 2.5 watts of energy and at its dimmest setting it only uses half a watt of energy. Each Nanoleaf Bloom used in place of a 75W incandescent bulb, if used for 3 hours per day, can save around 71kWh of electricity per year, which equals to $78.03 saved per year*. The Gem is the world’s most energy efficient designer bulb; a 40W equivalent bulb that uses only 5W of energy. It can save up to 38kWh of energy, totaling to $63.87 of savings per year*. The energy savings can be very significant, quickly multiplying with each bulb you use in your home.
*based on 10 bulbs per household and electricity cost of $0.11 per kWh
What are the most unique features of your bulbs aside from the energy savings?
The most unique thing about Nanoleaf’s bulbs are its shape. There is no other bulb in the world that has the same dodecahedron design – or even anything close to it. The shape makes a statement about our bulbs, elevating them to a space that’s so much more than just being sustainable. They are an eco art piece merged with incredible technology that makes them the most energy efficient in the world. The dodecahedron shape also gives the bulb omni-directional lighting, something that most LEDs struggle to achieve. Nanoleaf’s custom-packaged LED chips are placed right on the Bloom’s exterior, allowing for 360 degrees of beautiful, even lighting. Nanoleaf’s bulbs also operate without a heat sink, reducing the amount of energy lost due to heat and maximizing its efficiency. This keeps the bulb cool to the touch, increasing its life span and eliminating the possibility of damage from overheating.
Nanoleaf’s Gem is the world’s first all-glass, designer LED bulb. It is not only ultra eco-friendly, but also lightweight and shatter-resistant. In addition to a lifespan of 23 years, the Gem provides 360 degrees of uniform light distribution.
What about bulb disposal….Yes, these last a long, long time, but eventually they have to be replaced. Are there any concerns/special considerations in disposing of them?
The Nanoleaf One and Nanoleaf Bloom can be recycled in the same way as computer parts. There are no chemicals whatsoever within the bulbs so they pose no hazards during disposal. The Nanoleaf Gem is an all-glass bulb so it is recyclable in the same way as other glass products. The packaging is also fully recyclable as its made from cardboard. From manufacturing to packaging, Nanoleaf’s bulbs are green all around!
“Nano” is in the name — do the bulbs actually take advantage of any true nanotechnologies? If not, how did the name come about?
Although “nano” is in our name, Nanoleaf doesn’t actually use nanotechnology to develop our products. The combination of “nano” and “leaf” signifies the emphasis we place on using the least energy possible and the importance of being green in everything we do. It’s more of a play on words rather than a literal meaning.
As technology makes lighting more multi-faceted, what types of future innovations might there be? You already have a “smart” bulb in development and other companies have created bulbs that incorporate a bluetooth speaker…what’s next?
Our vision for the future of lighting includes previously unexplored forms and ways of exhibiting light. Instead of having a light bulb, why not integrate lighting into the space itself? We want to make products that are intuitive and to change the way people think about traditional lighting. The industry as a whole is becoming much more than just about lighting up a room, products are starting to branch out and integrate with different elements like touch and sound.
What global markets are you in and how are you growing?
Nanoleaf’s products are currently established in Hong Kong, China and all over Europe. It’s an exciting time as we’re growing very quickly right now. We’ve been establishing lines of distribution in North America with a lot of interest from the design community. The response we got from ICFF was also very positive. We met with a lot of artists, designers and architects who instantly wanted our bulbs in their showrooms, designs and stores!