Forget LED light bulbs... in the future, your lighting may be made from carbon. Columbia University researchers have built a light bulb chip that superheats graphene to produce illumination. While that's the same basic concept that you see in an incandescent bulb, the graphene filament measures just one atom thick -- this is the world's thinnest light bulb, and may be close to being the thinnest possible. It's transparent, too, which could suit it to see-through displays.
The technology should have uses beyond lighting things up, too. Generating this kind of heat on a small scale could lead to "micro-hotplates" that heat up chemicals for the sake of studying chemical reactions. Also, creating light at this scale is key to developing photonic processors that are much faster than conventional chips. The light will need to switch on and off much faster for any computing uses, but it's a realistic possibility.
[Image credit: Myung-Ho Bae/KRISS]