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14 June 2007


UK’s DTI funding laser projection display technology development by Swansea University

Swansea University in Wales, UK says it is receiving £322,000 as part of a £1.9m ($3.7m) two-year project called ‘HELPS’, funded by the UK government’s Department for Trade and Industry (DTI) Technology Programme, to develop lasers as replacement light sources in projection display systems.

The project is led by high-power laser manufacturer Bookham Technology, and partners include the Institute of Advanced Telecommunications (IAT) at Swansea University, Digital Projection Ltd in Manchester, and Stratophase Ltd in Southampton.

“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,” says professor Nick Doran, who heads IAT’s research activities.

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. The brightness of images produced by xenon-based sources degrades significantly after around 1000 hours of use, so the sources need replacing about every six months. Disposal of the light sources on such a regular basis also presents environmental issues.

“Only around 5% of the light produced by xenon sources reaches the screen because it is hard to control the emitted light,” says IAT’s Dr Nigel Copner, the senior research fellow working on the project with Doran. “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,” he claims. “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.”

“Ultimately, we aim to produce solutions that will undoubtedly impact on a wide range of display market sectors,” says Doran . “If we get this right, we could be looking at a market worth in excess of a £1bn ($2bn) a year just from the cinema projection market. There are very few optical products that can access a market of this scale,” Doran adds. “The next few years will see the cinema industry moving away from celluloid to digital projection, with the Hollywood standard being D-Cinema. In doing so, cinemas will also upgrade their projectors, allowing this new technology to be easily adopted.”

The technology is expected to eventually have application in other sectors, such as rear view projection televisions (RPTVs) and office projectors.

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