For those out there just looking for zanier methods to get your illumination on, Group IV Semiconductor is hoping to deliver the goods you crave. While about 60 percent of the world's artificial lighting is still derived from the incredibly inefficient incandescent variety, companies like Philips are offering up LED alternatives that conserve energy, emit less heat, and convert perfectly normal buildings into nerdish eye candy. The Ottawa startup has spent its last four years researching and developing a silicon-based lighting system that will hopefully be "just as cheap" to produce as solid-state alternatives and emit equivalent amounts of light to boot. To overcome one of silicon's less helpful characteristics (poor light emission, of all things), the company has packed nanocrystals -- otherwise known as "quantum dots" -- between a transparent layer in which current is directed and a substrate of silicon underneath. Once electricity is applied, the nanocrystals settle back into their natural state, give off photons, and create a low-heat form of light roughly equivalent to a standard 100 watt light bulb. Group IV is aiming to produce a product that requires "90 percent" less energy than options currently on the market, while building it to last "50 times" longer than the already longevous alternatives, so you should probably expect this (presumably) once in a lifetime purchase to demand quite a premium should it actually hit store shelves.

How to make a dot-matrix LED display