Good old incandescent light bulbs look set to make a comeback thanks to researchers who have found a way to make them efficient.

The widely favoured warm glow bulbs have been phased out in many countries and banned in the EU due to their poor energy efficiency compared with LED and fluorescent bulbs.

Traditional incandescent bulbs use only 2% of their energy on light while the rest generates heat, but researchers at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) say they have developed a technique to use all that lost energy.

Instead of allowing the energy to pass through, it is bounced back towards the filament by a special crystal structure which re-emits it as visible light.

This could make the efficiency of incandescent bulbs more in the region of 40%, toppling LED or fluorescent bulbs which are around 13% efficient.

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Researchers are yet to perfect the technology, only reaching about 6.6% efficiency with their first proof-of-concept units so far.

"This experimental device is a proof-of-concept, at the low end of performance that could be ultimately achieved by this approach," explained principal research scientist Ivan Celanovic.

"An important feature is that our demonstrated device achieves near-ideal rendering of colours.

“That is precisely the reason why incandescent lights remained dominant for so long: their warm light has remained preferable to drab fluorescent lighting for decades.”

Thomas Edison developed the first commercially available incandescent light bulb back in the 1880s, using electricity to heat a tungsten wire filament and cause it to glow.

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