Lasers point at the cinema

Scientists at Swansea University, Wales are developing a new laser display technology that will enhance the quality of cinema projections.


Scientists at Swansea University, Wales are developing a new laser display technology that will enhance the quality of cinema projections and may lead to revenues in excess of £1bn a year.


The research is being undertaken as part of a £1.9m project — funded by the Department for Trade and Industry (DTI) Technology Programme — to develop new lasers.


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


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 ultra high pressure bulbs, which have a limited lifespan.


The brightness of images produced by xenon-based sources degrades significantly after around 1,000 hours of use, meaning that the sources need replacing roughly every six months, which is 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 University will be at least five times more efficient, and have a much longer lifespan, as well as provide exceptional viewer colour gamut.


‘Only around 5% 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 colours,’ said Dr Nigel Copner, the IAT Senior Research Fellow working on the project


‘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.’


It is anticipated that the technology will eventually have application in other sectors, such as rear view projection televisions and office projectors.


For further information about the Institute of Advanced Telecommunications (IAT) at Swansea University, please visit http://www.swansea.ac.uk/iat.