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Hot Crystal

Lightbulbs and a radiation law may never be the same

3:34pm, September 29, 2003

There's a gleam in electrical engineer Shawn Yu Lin's eyes these days. It's a reflection of yellowish light given off by a brightly glowing metallic flake inside a vacuum chamber. Heated to incandescence by an electric current, the metal sliver in Lin's lab at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque is made of tungsten, as is an ordinary light-bulb filament. But this experimental filament is markedly different from the delicate wires that light up homes and businesses. Electron-microscope imaging reveals the sliver as tiny tungsten rods, each less than one-hundredth the thickness of a human hair, neatly stacked in crisscross layers.

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