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Behold the NanoLeaf

Trio of inventors met while working on a solar car project at U of T.


Three graduates from the university of Toronto have developed a new high-efficiency light bulb that they say could change the future of the lighting industry. The trio consists of PhD candidate Tom Rodinger and former electrical and computer engineering students Gimmy Chu and Christian Yan.

The NanoLeaf (formerly known as the NanoLight*) uses light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, and takes just 12 watts of power to produce 1,800 lumens (a typical compact fluorescent light bulb uses 23 watts to produce 1,600 lumens).

The three financed the light bulb’s development through the crowd-funding website Kickstarter. They initially hoped to raise $20,000 but by February had surpassed $300,000.

“When designing the NanoLight, we immediately set out to create the most energy efficient light bulb on the market that can be produced at a cost-effective price. Our aim was to trace any energy loss within our circuitry and be able to account for it,” says Mr. Chu, the product development manager.

The trio met as students at U of T in 2005 as members of a solar car project. “Our extracurricular activities allowed us to collaborate,” says Mr. Chu. “Although we separated for about five to six years after graduation, we met up again in 2009 and decided to try something innovative that had to do with green energy, something that could be sold.”

The extracurricular element was essential to the future development of the NanoLeaf – it was U of T’s electrical and computer engineering’s entrepreneurship speakers’ series that first turned the young men on to the business side of product development. Jonathan Rose, a professor of electrical and computer engineering and a co-host of the speakers’ program, hopes the trend continues: “Ten or 15 years from now, we’d like to be able to point to a good number of successful entrepreneurs and say that these events and activities helped make that happen.”

The next step for the NanoLeaf is to start large-scale production. A line of floodlights and lighting fixtures is also on the horizon.

*The NanoLight was recently rebranded as the NanoLeaf. The print edition of University Affairs refers to the light bulb by its original name.

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