Aladdin was not the only one to consider swapping his old lamp for a new one. Rear-projection HDTV makers have been actively seeking alternatives to the traditional UHP lamps used in most RPTVs and front projectors. While these lamps are very bright, they also generate a lot of heat and are limited to a few thousand hours of use before the metals from the electrodes plate the inside of the lamp and reduce the amount of light to half its original brightness. This is why Samsung has led the way with high-brightness LEDs as the light source for some of their DLP RPTV models; the solid state lights have a lifetime that meets or exceeds that of a plasma or LCD backlight.
Now a new lighting technology is coming to market. LIFI is a product of the LUXIM Corporation, and Panasonic has adopted it for two lines (the 1080p LCZ series and the 720p LCX series) of 50″, 56″, and 61″ LCD RPTVs that are scheduled to ship in April and May. The white light is generated by excited plasma, but rather than use electrodes, the lamp directs microwave energy into a tiny, resonant cavity. Some of the LIFI lamps are rated at 25,000 hours. The LIFI starts faster than a typical UHP lamp, and reportedly offers much better color response.
This new advance tackles one of the major qualms buyers have about RPTVs — having to replace expensive lamps — and is likely to help make this technology more appealing as consumers look for better bargains in larger screen sizes.