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Lasers to Enhance Movies

Photonics.com
Jun 2007
SWANSEA, Wales, June 12, 2007 -- Swansea University in Wales is developing new laser display technologies to enhance movie-projection quality as part of a £1.9 million (about $3.8 million) project funded by the United Kingdom's Department for Trade and Industry (DTI) Technology Programme. The technology could lead to revenues in excess of £1 billion ($2 billion) a year from cinema alone, university representatives said.

The project is led by Northamptonshire, England-based Bookham Technology plc, a manufacturer of high-power laser sources; partners include the Institute of Advanced Telecommunications (IAT) at Swansea University and two other companies in England, Digital Projection Ltd. of Manchester and Southampton's Stratophase Ltd.

Professor Nick Doran, who heads IAT's research activities, said, "This project has immense commercial potential and its success depends on the research being carried out in Swansea. IAT's work focuses on telecommunications, but we are able to leverage our knowledge of optical technologies to provide disruptive laser sources with exceptional projection brightness, efficiency, color gamut and reliability.

"Ultimately, we aim to produce solutions that will undoubtedly impact on a wide range of display market sectors. If we get this right, we could be looking at a market worth in excess of a billion pounds a year just from the cinema projection market. There are very few optical products that can access a market of this scale," he said. 

The global market for high-brightness light sources for the lighting and display sectors is currently dominated by inefficient and short-lived xenon or mercury ultrahigh-pressure bulbs, which have a limited lifespan, Doran said.

The brightness of images produced by xenon-based sources degrades significantly after around 1000 hours of use, meaning that the sources need replacing roughly every six months -- a costly exercise that requires technicians to wear protective clothing. Disposal of the light sources on such a regular basis also presents environmental issues.

The new light sources being developed at Swansea will be at least five times more efficient and have a much longer lifespan, as well as provide exceptional viewer color-gamut, Doran said.

"Only around 5 percent of the light produced by xenon sources reaches the screen because it is hard to control the emitted light. The laser technology we are developing is over 10 times as efficient and provides exceptionally high-quality images, with a much wider range of colors," said IAT's Nigel Copner, the senior research fellow working on the project with Doran.

"We believe that the lasers will last for at least 10,000 hours and possibly for up to 20,000 hours. That's potentially 10 years' usage, and when coupled with the exceptional efficiency, reduces the cost of ownership significantly alongside a greatly reduced environmental impact," Copner said.

Doran said, "The next few years will see the cinema industry moving away from celluloid to digital projection, with the Hollywood standard being D-cinema (digital cinema). In doing so, cinemas will also upgrade their projectors, allowing this new technology to be easily adopted."

The researchers anticipate that the technology will eventually have application in other areas, such as rear-view projection televisions and office projectors.

For more information, visit: www.swansea.ac.uk/iat


GLOSSARY
digital
Denoting the use of binary notation; i.e., the representation of data by bits (1 or 0).
light
Electromagnetic radiation detectable by the eye, ranging in wavelength from about 400 to 750 nm. In photonic applications light can be considered to cover the nonvisible portion of the spectrum which includes the ultraviolet and the infrared.
photonics
The technology of generating and harnessing light and other forms of radiant energy whose quantum unit is the photon. The science includes light emission, transmission, deflection, amplification and detection by optical components and instruments, lasers and other light sources, fiber optics, electro-optical instrumentation, related hardware and electronics, and sophisticated systems. The range of applications of photonics extends from energy generation to detection to communications and...
xenon
A rare gas used in small high-pressure arc lamps to produce a high-intensity source of light closely resembling the color quality of daylight.
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