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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

I'm Robert Siegel. And it's time now for All Tech Considered.

(Soundbite of music)

SIEGEL: When it comes to brightening up a room, the incandescent light bulb is hard to beat. It gives off great light and it doesn't cost much. That's why it's sitting in 90 percent of American sockets. But here's another 90 percent for you: 90 percent of the electricity that goes into your average incandescent bulb is wasted. It's turned into heat, not light. Not long ago, Congress passed new efficiency standards for light bulbs to go into effect in 2012 and many experts thought the incandescent was done for. But one Northern California company is trying to save it from extinction. In Santa Rosa, reporter Christopher Johnson got a tour of Deposition Sciences Inc, DSI.

CHRISTOPHER JOHNSON: Norman Boling has a peculiar reason why he thinks DSI-engineered bulbs shine the best light.

Dr. NORMAN BOLING (Vice President, Research and Development, Deposition Sciences Inc): If you're across the table having dinner with a frog, the frog will look good.

(Soundbite of laughter)

JOHNSON: Boling gets a little giddy when he talks lighting. He and fellow scientist Bob Gray are excited to show off their bright idea: a machine that makes incandescent lights cheaper and greener than regular 100-watt bulbs.

Dr. BOB GRAY (Scientist, Deposition Sciences Inc): What you're seeing here is the sputter chamber…

JOHNSON: It's a big spinning drum inside a stainless steel box. The whole thing is covered with motors, blinking lights and a web of tubes and wires.

Dr. GRAY: It's a mechanic's playground.

JOHNSON: Over in a quieter room nearby, Norman runs down some light-bulb basics.

Dr. BOLING: Let's view something that everybody is familiar with: the 100-watt bulb. If you'd broken one of those bulb and you look inside, there's a hot wire, a filament. You heat that filament to about 3,000 degrees, and it glows.

JOHNSON: What you don't see is the heat the bulb emits as wasted energy. DSI has developed a way to trap and recycle that energy to make the bulb glow.

Dr. BOLING: The concept that we use - it's a small light bulb, a small halogen bulb, about the size of a peanut. And on that light bulb, we put a very complex coating.

JOHNSON: That mirrored coating reflects the heat back onto the filament. The sputtering process spray paints that metal film all over those little glass bulbs. The whole process takes about 5 hours.

(Soundbite of machine)

Dr. BOLING: The ultimate thickness of this coating is a fraction of the size of a hair on your head.

JOHNSON: Later, these bulbs will go inside bigger glass shells shaped just like the common 100-watt bulb. The light is just as good too, even though the new hybrid electric lights only use up 70 watts.

Dr. BOLING: So, you'll save 30 watts. That's money in your pocket because you not going to be paying for that electricity.

JOHNSON: DSI hopes to attract investors, but making hybrid lights isn't cheap, so the bulbs are expensive. But Bob Gray says prices will fall when lots more hybrids hit the market. He's determined to make that happen.

Dr. GRAY: If this technology is accepted and goes into general use, it's staggering the amount of energy that can be saved. That's exciting to me.

For NPR News, I'm Christopher Johnson.

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