Over at Green Inc., Leora Broydo Vestel has a fascinating dispatch about researchers who are trying to boost the energy-efficiency of incandescent bulbs, so that consumers can have lighting that meets new efficiency standards without having to endure the glare of compact fluorescent bulbs. (I actually don't mind CFLs in the slightest, but many people seem to.) All sorts of clever tricks for incandescents are being devised, from "blackening the tungsten filament with a short pulse laser" to "using reflective coatings which allow waste heat to convert to visible light."
Still, it's very much unclear if incandescent bulbs will ever catch up to CFLs or LEDs. Current incandescents give off about 10 to 20 lumens per watt. Some of the new lab efforts, Vestel reports, have cranked that figure up to 40 lumens per watt. Very nice. But CFLs that are already on the market range from 40 to 100 lumens per watt. And there's a fair bit of new research focused on giving CFLs a softer glow, so that they more closely mimic the much-beloved light emitted by incandescents. So it's officially a race, but incandescents are still pretty far behind. (Of course, in the future, advanced solid-state lighting will presumably solve our all lighting needs, though that could be ways off.)
(Flickr photo credit: Marjolein K.)