Saturday science subject: Electron-stimulated luminscence

No matter how you look at it, the days of incandescent light bulbs are numbered. Despite generally being more power efficient, however, replacements have their downsides—compact fluorescents emit cooler light, can take a while to warm up, and are trickier to dispose of when they break, for instance. LED bulbs are also expensive and have thermal limitations.

A firm in Seattle, Washington claims to have something of a panacea: electron-stimulated luminscence (ESL), a technology it publicly demonstrated for the first time in a video earlier this week. Here's the clip; the interesting part starts about half-way in:

ESL works a little bit like the technology from old CRT monitors, but with a twist. The Vu1 FAQ explains:

ESL uniquely applies much of the science that has been proven over a long period of time in TV and CRT technology. However, ESL has made groundbreaking improvements in uniform electron distribution, energy efficiency, phosphor performance and manufacturing costs. More simply, CRT and TV technology is based on delivering an electron "beam" and then turning pixels on and off very quickly. ESL technology is based on uniformly delivering a "spray" of electrons that illuminate a large surface very energy efficiently over a long lifetime.

The FAQ quotes a 65-70% power-efficiency improvement over incandescent bulbs and a 6,000-hour life span, roughly competitive with cheaper CFLs. Cost-wise, the video talks of pricing comparable to that of "premium" CFLs. Vu1's first product will be a replacement for R-30 incandescent flood bulbs, and it should be out "by mid 2010." (Thanks to CNet News for the tip.)

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