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Research Illuminates the Path to a Better Light Bulb

Three light bulb: incandescent, compact fluorescents and LED

It all started with a headache. After flipping on the overhead lights in her room to study, Sarah Friedensen's head would start to ache and the study session would  have to end. It didn't happen every time—just under the bluish, almost imperceptibly flickering light of traditional fluorescent tubes. She shared her observation with Professor of Physics Dan Boye, and a research project was born - one that could lead to kinder, gentler LED lights that give off a more natural glow.

Friedensen graduated in 2015, but her research into phosphor technology and the synthetic production of minerals laid the foundation for another student's work toward new, promising advances in lighting technology.

Nancy Pruett '18, a physics and music double major, is collaborating with Boye, Professor of Physics Mario Belloni and Richardson Professor of Physics Larry Cain, to synthetically reproduce the warm, yellow glow of natural light using mineral fluorescence.

Pruett, who sings in the Davidson College Chorale alongside three other physics majors, has more in common with Boye than mineral fluorescence: Boye is known as "The Singing Professor" for his second career as a professional operatic bass-baritone.

Both Friedensen and Pruett pursued their research with funding from the Davidson Research Initiative. This year, DRI funded collaborative research opportunities with faculty, on campus and around the world, for 26 students in a wide range of fields. Currently, Friedensen is researching topological superconductors in the physics doctoral program at the University of Pennsylvania.

John Syme