New lighting at Thompson Boling Arena has one-of-a-kind feature discovered in East Tennessee

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) The court is brighter and the lighting is a different shade than we're all used to, but it's what you can't see behind the bulbs that set them apart from every other place on the planet.

LED lights mean cheaper energy costs, but there's more than that being installed at Thompson Boling Arena.

"When they're on...they actually use 85 percent less power," James Klett said.

The arena should see a savings of about $6,000 every month just by having the new lights, Klett explained.

Klett accidentally invented a special kind of foam in 1997 when he and his team of researchers were trying to make a product at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. After they realized what they had, that foam then went on missions to the moon and has been installed on satellites orbiting the earth.

Now, that foam is being used behind each LED light inside Thompson Boling Arena.

The foam is able to keep the lights cooler than what they typically run, which means an even higher energy efficiency, as well as a longer life.

"A bulb that typically last two years could now last 20 years, 30 years, even 40 years," Klett explained.

In addition to cooling the lights at an extraordinary rate, the foam is also unique in that there is nothing else like it on the earth.

"It's the only material in nature that conducts heat and absorbs sound," Klett said. "So it really started taking off in a lot of different applications for the military, to civilian applications all over the planet."

But for Klett, seeing his work being installed inside the arena is just plain cool.

"I have seen this stuff go in space and around the moon, and be a part of some huge science experiments. But this is just, down to earth, it's right here in our backyard."

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