We've all heard about how much better compact fluorescent lights (CFL) are over incandescent bulbs for most general lighting tasks. The articles about LED lights are interesting, although there aren't readily available, affordable LED replacements for ordinary lighting purposes. But recently, I've seen some discussion about a new light source that has some interesting features. The Ceravision light contains no mercury (the biggest drawback in compact fluorescents), and is highly efficient in producing light (the biggest drawback with incandescent lights).
Hank Green over at EcoGeek first brought the Ceravision light source to my attention last week. And since then, I've seen some other writers picking up on it as well. The technology behind it is interesting. It is not a new breakthrough so much as it is a development of existing technologies:
"The device doesn't use any fascinating new technology, which is really good news as it can be built from parts already in mass production. It's a new sort of metal halide lamp (a tube of gas inside a lump of a metal oxide.) When the lamp is put in the presence of a microwave emitter (just like the one in your kitchen, but much smaller) a concentrated electric field forms in the tube of gas which promptly turns into plasma. More than 50% of the energy is emitted as light, which is 2x more than ordinary metal halide lamps, and four times more than ordinary fluorescents." -EcoGeek
The company is talking about using it for specialized applications: "The result is a lamp that produces exceptionally high light output and 'collimated' or very focused white light at a much lower cost than current high pressure metal halide sources. Future applications for the lamp are extremely broad, says Ceravision's Chief Scientist, Dr. Robin Devonshire. "It could be used as a replacement for electronic projector lamps, for rear projection TVs and for major industrial lighting sectors such as horticulture and airport networks."
This would be good for spotlights, but not as good for area lighting and general illumination tasks. Of course, there are ways of using this light source to do other lighting tasks, and, if the technology really takes off, there will be all kinds of developments that capitalize on it. But the most likely initial household uses of this are likely to be in projection TVs, rather than in room lighting.
The possibility that immediately comes to my mind is to use this in conjunction with a fiber optic lighting system. Since the light source for a fiber optic bundle only needs to have the light focused onto the end of the fibers, a very directional light would be a good pairing with a fiber optic system. This would also be likely to be used in ceiling installations for directional downlighting. The promised longevity would be another benefit from this system, particularly for inaccessible locations.
The company's hype is a bit overinflated. Their website calls it "The biggest revolution to the lighting industry since the invention of the filament lamp, and even the high power LED." In my view, that's a bit much. All in all, it's an interesting development, but I don't think this is going to be lighting your living room any time soon.