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14.4 / C. J. Joshi

14.4: Development of Long Life, Full Spectrum Light Source for Projection Display

Chandrashekhar J. Joshi LUXIM Corporation, 1171 Borregas Avenue, Sunnyvale CA 94089 USA


A new high performance light source has been developed utilizing

RF drive plasma technology called LIFI . This new light source is capable of delivering a light intensity suitable for projection HDTV’s up to 70” and with further development is applicable to front projectors. With start times averaging 6 seconds or less and

an estimated life time of 100,000 hours, LIFI meets the demands of next generation TVs. This is the first RF drive light source to be produced in high volume for the projection display market. This paper describes the technology and reports the performance

of the LIFI light source.



It has long been recognized that the presence of metal electrodes in conventional high intensity discharge (HID) lamps limits both the performance and lifetime of such lamps[1]. Removing electrodes from the design of the light source, in principle, removes these limitations and in addition expands the design space for useable emitters and offers a better luminous efficacy [2,3]. The electrodeless light sources operate on the same basic principle as HID lamps, converting electrical power into visible radiation, except that the electrical power is supplied in the form of radio frequency waves (RF). The RF is coupled to these lamps in one of several ways: a capacitive RF discharge, an inductive RF discharge or a surface wave sustained RF discharge [4-6]. Using these techniques several products have been commercialized for general lighting that function in a wide range of frequency from 256 KHz to 2.4 GHz [7-9]. The advent of high efficiency, high power semiconductor amplifiers in the 400 MHz – 4 GHz range has given a new impetus to this development especially in the projection display space where extremely bright, point-like and compact light sources are needed. In this paper we discuss the basic operating principles and describe the performance characteristics of a new addition to the RF drive lamp family:

LUXIM Corporation’s LIFI lamp [10,11]. See Figure 1.

Corporation’s LIFI ™ lamp [10,11]. See Figure 1. Figure 1. Photograph of LIFI ™ 4000 lamp

Figure 1. Photograph of LIFI 4000 lamp

LIFI is shown to produce over 76 lumens/watt with a color rendering index of 88 and over 4000 lumens in an etendue of 27 mm 2 sr. Start times averaging 6 seconds or less when cold and even shorter when hot, LIFI is particularly suited for projection

HDTV up to 70” and with further refinements will be applicable to front projectors. Furthermore, because of its manufacturability it is the first RF drive light source to be commercialized in high volume for the projection display market.

2. The LIFI Lamp

The LIFI lamp is broadly speaking in the category of a surface wave sustained RF discharge, but there are some critical differences between LIFI and other such discharges. The quartz bulb as shown in Figure 2 is embedded inside a metal-coated dielectric waveguide made out of alumina or some other high dielectric constant material. This helps to reduce the physical dimensions of the device and minimizes the RF leakage through the bulb opening. Figure 2 shows a schematic of the LIFI lamp (a), a photograph of the lamp without the RF drive circuit (b), and the RF drive circuit (c).

the RF drive circuit (b), and the RF drive circuit (c). (a) (b) (c) Figure 2.


the RF drive circuit (b), and the RF drive circuit (c). (a) (b) (c) Figure 2.
the RF drive circuit (b), and the RF drive circuit (c). (a) (b) (c) Figure 2.



Figure 2.

(a) Schematic of the LIFI lamp including the solid state amplifier,


the ceramic puck with a quartz bulb embedded in it and


the R.F. drive board

LIFI can be operated in a broad frequency range from hundreds of MHz to several GHz where relatively efficient high power RF amplifiers are commercially available. In Figure 2, the cylindrical

waveguide with two co-axial probes is typically called the “puck”. The quartz bulb is filled with an inert gas, a trace amount of mercury and a combination of metal halide salts to deliver a high luminous efficacy and the desired spectrum. The feedback probe samples the characteristic resonant frequency of the puck and feeds it to the RF amplifier which in turn feeds the amplified power to the puck via the drive probe. The lamp operates in three distinct modes during start-up: ignition, warm-up and operation. In the OFF mode, the puck acts as a high Q resonant cavity, or a dielectric resonator storing the RF power until the circulating electric field inside the puck is 30-50 times the value supplied by the amplifier. The electric field leaks (evanescent field) into the lamp cavity where it is able to ionize the low-pressure noble gas and sustain a plasma. This plasma in turn evaporates the mercury and metal halides setting up a metal-halide convection cell forming a multi-atmosphere pressure, partially ionized plasma. Simultaneously the Q of the cavity drops after which the puck acts simply as a waveguide, transporting the RF from the amplifier to the lamp. In the plasma-off mode, the RF leakage from the lamp opening in the puck is small because the size of this opening is much smaller than the RF wavelength inside the puck. However when the plasma forms, the RF wavelength in the plasma can become on the order of the plasma size and the RF leakage can increase. However this is offset by extremely efficient RF absorption.

3. Plasma Physics of the LIFI Lamp

Although a detailed discussion of the physics of LIFI is beyond the scope of this paper, it is instructive to highlight the salient points. With RF power of about 20 watts, the cavity Q is large enough for the RF to ionize the noble gas raising the electron density to approximately 10 13 cm -3 . The electron temperature at this point can be estimated by balancing the collisional ionization rate and the radiative and the three body recombination rates to be about 1.1 eV.

The breakdown of the noble gas leads to vaporization and ionization of mercury followed by vaporization of the metal halide salts. The inner diameter of the bulb determines the functional form of the radial temperature profile, which for bulb diameters smaller than 5 mm, tends to be parabolic with a temperature maximum in the center and a wall temperature of about 650 o C.

The formation of the plasma shifts the resonant frequency of the puck, however the RF amplifier feedback loop is continuously able to track this frequency shift and feed the power to the plasma. Once the metal halides have completely vaporized, the plasma density rapidly increases in the center region to about 10 15 cm -3 . It is this plasma that emits most of the visible radiation. The transition from weak emitting noble gas plasma to full brightness is fairly rapid (see later) and is referred to as the warm-up. Even with this high density the plasma is only partially ionized with ionization fraction on the order 10 -5 . A distinct plasma column appears at the center of the bulb because this is where the temperature and therefore the ionization rate is the largest. In the steady state operation the peak temperature at the center is estimated to be around 0.5 eV because of electron-ion and electron-neutral thermalizing collisions. The diffusion of the plasma column is hampered by collisions with the neutral atoms, i.e.; the electrons are born and recombine within the column without hitting the wall of the bulb.

14.4 / C.J. Joshi

The net spectrum from the bulb is the result of several contributions. First both the plasma and the neutral vapor is optically thick and any radiation that is emitted in the body of the plasma column is absorbed and re-emitted several times until it is finally emitted from the “skin” of the plasma,. In addition to the characteristic metal atom ion emission there is significant molecular emission.

The luminous efficacy of the LIFI is shown to be as high as 76 lumen/watt and 31% of the total lumens are collected into an etendue of 27 mm 2 sr. This luminous efficacy result is because once the steady state is reached, conduction and convection losses, 40-50 watts and 10-15 watts, respectively, remain approximately constant and further increase in RF power contributes towards radiation.

3. Performance Data

The total

lumen output is typically 13,000 lumens at an RF power of 170 watts. Compared to a high pressure mercury lamp operating at 200 atmospheres, the LIFI spectrum is more continuous with a substantial amount of light in both the red (600-700 nm) and the blue (400-500nm) parts of the spectrum. The color temperature can be made to be between 6500K to more than 10,000K using different lamp fills.

In Figure 3 a typical LIFI 4000 spectrum is shown.

90000 LIFI 4000 80000 mercury HID lamp 70000 60000 50000 40000 30000 20000 10000 0
LIFI 4000
mercury HID lamp

Figure 3. The spectrum emitted by LIFI 4000. Also shown for comparison is the spectrum of a mercury HID lamp at a pressure of 200 atmospheres

Figure 4 shows the expected change in the total lumen output versus time for LIFI 4000 lamps. This curve was obtained as follows: Five lamps were tested following a two hour ON and half-hour OFF cycle. After 4000 hours of such ON-OFF cycling the average lumen output was reduced to about 87% of the initial output but the rate of change shows a trend toward stabilization.

A fit to the experimental data shows that at this rate the light

output should be reduced to about 80% of its initial level after 25,000 hours of operation. Careful diagnostics of lamps undergoing life testing has revealed that the lumen decline can mostly be attributed to the degradation of the power electronics and not the bulb. With further improvements in the drive circuitry the lumen maintenance performance is expected to improve significantly. We note that even at this rate of lumen drop-off with time, the lamp has the potential to reach 100,000 hours of operation but this awaits laboratory validation.

Another one of the major advantages of LIFI is its short time to achieve full brightness. Figure 5 (blue curve) shows relative

14.4 / C. J. Joshi

brightness as a function of time after power on. The time to 95% of full brightness is about six seconds. The red curve in the same figure shows the RF power coupled to the bulb. Here one clearly sees the ignition and warm-up phases of the lamp. The noble gas breakdown occurs in less than one second after the RF is turned on, but there is no significant light emission until about 2.5 seconds when mercury first vaporizes and begins to emit radiation. The warm-up phase occurs at about 3 seconds when the metal halides have evaporated and begin to emit visible radiation strongly. One of the drawbacks of conventional HID lamps is the long re-strike time when the lamp is hot. This is because the pressure inside the lamp needs to

100% 90% 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0% 0 5000 10000 15000
Initial Lumens Maintained

Hours of Operation

Figure 4. The expected change in total lumens over 25,000 hours of on/off cycle operation of a LIFI lamp

be reduced to near its cold value before the lamp can be struck again. The LIFI lamp has a lower operating pressure (typically 50 atmospheres versus 200 atmospheres for mercury based HID) to begin with. Furthermore, the circulating electric field in the resonant cavity can be made high enough so that the lamp can be re-energized even when hot and achieves full brightness again within less than six seconds.

1 10 0.9 0.8 8 0.7 0.6 6 0.5 0.4 4 0.3 0.2 2 0.1
Time (s)
Figure 5.
Typical time to reach full brightness for the LIFI ™
Luminous Output (a.u.)
I-dc (A)

4. Summary

The full color spectrum, long life, fast start time and design simplicity have enabled LIFI to be the first light source of its kind manufactured in large quantities for commercial projection display use. These applications include projection television up to 70 inches and multi-segmented video walls. Improvements currently underway should lead to a 100% improvement in output due to better bulb design and collection optics. These advancements will expand the applicability of LIFI to front projection and other general lighting applications.

5. Acknowledgements

The author acknowledges valuable contributions of R. Gilliard, M. DeVincentes, G. Hollingsworth, A. Hafidi, T. McGettigan, P. Lamond, M. Duelli, A. Pradhan, (Late) Y. Chang and M. Espiau towards the development of LIFI .

6. References


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Contributors, p. 216 (1997)

[10] F. M. Espiau, C. J. Joshi and Y. Chang, “Plasma lamp with

dielectric waveguide,” U.S. patent 6,737,809 (2004)

[11] F. M. Espiau, Y. Chang, ”Microwave energized plasma

lamp with solid dielectric waveguide,” U.S. patent

6,922,021 (2005)