What’s Old Is New Again

May 9, 2014 in Lamps

Earlier this week the New York Times had an interesting, although not very informative, article about two new lamp manufacturers and their technologies.  The first is Finally, a Massachusetts based company that is using an old technology, induction, to generate light.  Induction lamps are very similar to fluorescent lamps except that they do not have electrodes or filaments, which are a fluorescent lamp’s most common points of failure. Instead of an electric arc passing through the gas-filled tube, induction lamps use an electromagnetic field to excite the gas.  Like fluorescent lamps, mercury in the lamp produces UV light, which excites phosphors on the lamp envelope to create visible light. Induction lighting has been on the market for many years from other manufacturers.  The advantages of induction include very long life, good color rendering, no flicker, and instant start and restrike.  The drawback to the other induction lamps is that the equipment producing the electromagnetic field is bulky.  The Finally lamp manufacturer has found a way to shrink the equipment to the size of the ballast in a typical retrofit CFL lamp.  The only drawback is that it cannot dim with conventional wallbox dimmers.

The second lamp is the Vu1.  It too uses an old technology in a new way.  The Vu1 is essentially a cathode ray tube, just like old televisions and computer monitors.  It fires a stream of electrons at phosphors embedded in a glass plate, which in turn produce light.  It does not contain mercury, is instant on, has excellent color rendering, and is dimmable.  It is currently available as an R30 replacement lamp.

Since both of these lamps are designed for the retrofit market, they aren’t likely to be specified by lighting designers.  Nonetheless, I’m looking forward to seeing them in operation, and I’m excited to see some alternatives to LEDs.  It will be interesting to see where these two technologies go in the next few years.