Energy efficiency is in! New inorganic luminescent materials can help to increase energy efficiency when used in plasma display panels and white-light-emitting diodes (see color diagram; mixing the three emissions A–C produces any given point within the triangle). In mercury-free fluorescent lamps these phosphors might contribute to environmental protection, and they provide better scintillation materials for medical diagnostics.
Because fossil fuels are becoming scarce and because of the expected climate change, our standard of living can only be maintained by a significant increase in energy efficiency. Large amounts of energy are consumed for lighting and during operation of displays. Thus, the targets are the development of economical light sources like white-light-emitting diodes and display panels with enhanced efficiency. Solar energy is converted into electricity by solar cells, and their efficiency must be improved considerably. A possible contribution might be delivered by phosphors which allow the conversion of thermal radiation into electrical energy. Although the target of energy efficiency is very important, we must not overlook that medical imaging diagnostic methods require efficient and sensitive detectors. For the solution of these central questions, inorganic solid-state materials doped with rare-earth ions are very promising and are therefore in the focus of current research activities.