Charles E. Hunt Receives STAIR Grant

Charles E. Hunt, a professor in the UC Davis Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, has been awarded one of the campus’ inaugural Science Translation and Innovative Research (STAIR) grants. Hunt and his research team received the $50,000 grant for their project titled “Low-Cost, High-Quality, Energy-Efficient Light Sources Using FEL [Field-Emission Lighting Technology].”UC Davis Prof. Charles Hunt

“This is a very big deal for my group,” Hunt explains, the enthusiasm evident in his voice. “It will translate our work in energy-efficient lighting — specifically field-emission lighting, which I invented and which carries UC Davis patents — into prototypes that will demonstrate the technology to parties who are interested in bringing these light sources to market.

“Our very-low-cost glass bulbs contain a white-light phosphor, similar to those used for decades in old-fashioned TV tubes, which is ignited by an ‘electron fountain’ that emanates from a field-emission source made from a cheap piece of glassy carbon.

“The result is a long-lasting bulb that can be made for the same cost as CFLs, but with far superior performance: good white-light color, no environmentally unfriendly materials (such as mercury), and fully dimmable in ordinary household sockets with common dimmer switches. Best of all, to many folks, our bulbs look like ‘regular’ light bulbs.

“Our bulbs also are superior to LED technology: Ours have far truer color quality, with no glare. We don’t require sophisticated diffuser optics to spread out the light; we don’t use limited-resource materials such as indium or gallium; and we don’t require sophisticated, heat-sinking technology to dissipate the heat generated.

“I truly believe that this technology is a game-changer in lighting.”

Hunt’s proposal was one of four STAIR grant recipients from a field of 38 submitted. The grant will help Hunt and his team format their FEL bulbs in two ways: in an “A-lamp” configuration, akin to what most users would call an ordinary light bulb for a standard fixture; and a “ceiling luminaire,” akin to the ubiquitous 2-by-4-foot fixtures that contain 4-foot fluorescent tubes. The big difference: FEL technology produces a tube-less, contiguous emissive surface that will be flush with the ceiling.

Hunt earned his doctorate in electrical engineering at Cornell University in 1986, the same year he joined the UC Davis College of Engineering faculty. He served as a staff consultant at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory until 2002, and also is a visiting professor of physics at the University of Barcelona. Since 2006, he has been chief technical officer of the Vu1 Corp., whose mission is to set a new global standard for safe, sustainable and energy-efficient lighting.

The UC Davis STAIR Grant Program is managed by the Venture Catalyst Unit and funded by the Office of Research. The program provides targeted funding to support translational science and innovative work performed by UC Davis researchers, with the intent of demonstrating early proof-of-concept and commercial potential, and/or the feasibility for technologies being developed at UC Davis with the intent of commercial translation.
Photo by Michelle Tran/UC Davis College of Engineering.