A better light bulb?

A titanium dioxide coating gives this light bulb the power to eat germs and odors

PHOTO: NICHOLAS EVELEIGH

Could a light bulb change my life? Or at least make it smell a lot better? When I heard about the O-ZoneLite, a compact fluorescent bulb with a screw-in base that purports to reduce bacteria, mold, viruses, fungi, smoke, and household odors, I was skeptical. But I've got odor issues in my house (most notably, two kittens and a very smelly litter box), so I was willing to check it out.

This US $40 light bulb's claim to fame is its external titanium dioxide coating. The scientific basis for this coating is the 1967 discovery in Japan by two chemists, Kenichi Honda and Akira Fujishima, that titanium dioxide is a photocatalyst that can break down organic materials drifting into contact with it. The bulb is being built and sold by O-ZoneLite in Deerfield Beach, Fla.

My first test spot was the upstairs bathroom, since the bulbs over the mirror were easily accessible. The upshot? The light emitted was nice, bright, and pleasant—the 23-watt O-ZoneLite replicates the warm light of a 100-W incandescent bulb. I thought maybe the room smelled a little fresher, but the change wasn't dramatic, and I couldn't swear I wasn't experiencing a placebo effect.

I figured the downstairs bathroom—the cat room—would be the true test. I left the light on for hours with little effect, but this turned out not to be a fair trial, because the bulb requires air circulation to work, and the light fixture I put the bulb into is nearly airtight.

Next the bulb went into a pole lamp in the TV room, a small room that gets little fresh air and can smell musty. A little better? I thought the air right around the light smelled fresher: the manufacturer calls it a "just-rained scent." I had no way to measure the effect on viruses or bacteria.

The verdict? A nice light, a little pricey, but the lifetime of energy efficiency—claimed to be 10 000 hours (though the titanium dioxide coating starts to dissipate after 6000 hours), compared with about 750 hours for an incandescent bulb—makes up for the price. I'm leaving the bulb in the TV room; that's where sick kids end up, and cold and flu season has arrived, so I'll take any help I can get. But I'm not throwing out my regular air freshener just yet.

To Probe Further

For more information, see http://www.ozonelite.com.

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