LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL
Her World Malaysia|March - April 2020
2019 winner of the L’Oréal-UNESCO for Women in Science Fellowship, Dr Lim Way Foong is determined to bring a ‘healthier light’ into the lives of everyone. Her ‘fall down seven times, get up eight’ story will inspire and move your heart.
Lorraine Chai

“It was so unbelievable when I received the call from L’Oréal Malaysia. I was so excited and surprised! Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would stand out among the other 193 nominees, and be selected one of the three winners,” Dr Lim exclaims, still very much amazed by the news of her win. The L’Oréal-UNESCO for Women in Science Fellowship is a highly coveted award that seeks to celebrate the achievements of Malaysian women scientists. The prize includes grant money that will enable the winners to pursue their research projects.

In her research, Dr Lim studies the impact of replacing blue light – the light emitted by artificial lighting such as the light-emitting diode (LED) used in most indoor lighting as well as in electronic gadgets – with blue-free radiation lighting by using violet light. There have been many attempts to commercially market violet light as the white light that has less impact on human well-being, but its optimal emission wavelength remains unknown. By varying the composition of the light’s emissive layer in order to tune its wavelength, Dr Lim’s project – VioLEDs – aims to produce the optimum amount of violet light LEDs to be fabricated into white light.

“The exposure of human eyes to blue light can profoundly affect human health. This is due to the high sensitivity of the retina’s cell – called intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells (ipRGCs) – to blue light, particularly at the peak sensitivity of 450 – 480 nm wavelength. The ipRGCs transmit signal to the brain and mediate the circadian rhythm, thus affecting melatonin production,” says Dr Lim. The exposure of blue light, especially in the evening, disrupts our biological clock and activates the ‘wake state’ of a circadian cycle, as our brain registers the environment as daytime, which then leads to health problems like difficulty in falling asleep and sleep deficiency. Unless we are willing to compromise and make sacrifices by reducing the use of gadgets in the evening, an alternative solution is very much necessary.

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