Researchers at the Center of Nanotechnology and Molecular Materials at Wake Forest in Winston-Salem, NC have invented a prototype light source which in coming years could give current light bulbs a run for their money. They say the light source doesn't get hot, won't break, and has energy efficiency and lifetime similar to or better than LED light bulbs
and CFLs. One research technician noted an early use for the light source would probably be task lighting, under cabinets, places where light bulbs don't normally fit, etc.
The light source uses modified phosphors similar to the mercury vapor in compact fluorescent light bulbs, but contains no mercury. Head researcher Dave Carroll says it's environmentally friendly; you could "throw this into a landfill, there isn't anything in this that will hurt you" according to Carroll. He goes on to note that the material can be shaped into anything; for example it could be molded into a lamp shade. A luminescent lamp shade would be quite interesting; there would be no standard light bulb beneath the shade, because the shade itself would be the light bulb.
We're still years off from seeing this light source in any type of commercial form, but a company called PureLux has already started marketing for it. Hopefully this technology will be fully researched. I'd love to be able to buy some light panels for myself. Imagine a future where the walls and ceilings themselves are the light sources; no light bulbs or fixtures necessary. That'd be pretty cool!
Apparently the technology doesn't burn out, but just dims over time. That's kind of how LED light bulbs work. LEDs do have an eventual death, but the reason for their long life spans is that rather than burning out abruptly, they dim over a very long period of time until they are finally unable to provide luminance.