In everyday life, we are continually exposed to different lighting systems, from the home interior to car lights and from public lighting to displays. The basic emission principles on which they are based range from the old incandescent lamps to the well-established compact fluorescent lamps (CFL) and to the more modern Light Emitting Diode (LEDs) that are dominating the actual market and also promise greater development in the coming years. In the LED technology, the key point is the electroluminescence material, but the fundamental role of proper phosphors is sometimes underestimated even when it is essential for an ideal color rendering. In this review, we analyze the main solid-state techniques for lighting applications, paying attention to the fundamental properties of phosphors to be successfully applied. Currently, the most widely used materials are based on rare-earth elements (REEs) whereas Ce:YAG represents the benchmark for white LEDs. However, there are several drawbacks to the REEs’ supply chain and several concerns from an environmental point of view. We analyze these critical issues and review alternative materials that can overcome their use. New compounds with reduced or totally REE free, quantum dots, metal–organic framework, and organic phosphors will be examined with reference to the current state-of-the-art.
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