You've heard of CFL and LED light bulbs. Now get ready for ESLs.

You've heard of CFL and LED light bulbs. Now get ready for ESLs.

Summary: (Updated Sunday, Jan. 16, to add Destination Lighting information.


(Updated Sunday, Jan. 16, to add Destination Lighting information.)

This morning, I overheard my home contractor husband asking a hardware story about the benefits of compact fluorescent bulbs. We are redoing our kitchen right now, and BRIGHT energy efficiency lighting is a must. I wasn't involved because he tends to leave me out of this part of our lives. I don't have the home decorating gene, although I do a hell of a job keeping everything clean.

In any event, I saw my chance to give him a little green lighting technology 101 lesson, which I did while he was driving me to the airport just now. So (finally!) we are looking at CFLs and/or LEDs for ALL of our rooms, even the ones filled with old antique lamps.

It also gave me the opportunity to start talking up another option I recently heard about, called an Electron Stimulated Luminescence (ESL) lamp. The technology behind this emerging lighting option, which comes from a New York-based company called Vu1, builds on using accelerated electrons in combination with phosphor, causing a glow. According to Vu1, the technology offers a 70 percent energy efficiency improvement over incandescent bulbs as well as a bulb life of roughly 10,000 hours.

Vu1 has just begun selling its first ESL model bulb, called the R30, which is a direct replacement for a 65-watt incandescent bulb. Oh, and did I mention there is no mercury in the product? This bulb, which is currently for sale on the company's Web site, retails for $19.95. BUT, you actually have to buy at least eight of the bulbs at once.

Bill Smith, a Vu1 director, says the company holds something like 10 patents for the technology, which is fully dimmable (a BIG consideration for design freaks like my husband) AND also offers instant on and instant off. No warm-up period, like what might be required by a CFL.

Aside from selling direct, Vu1 expects to sell the bulbs in retail locations, although when I talked to him in December, there were no specific names that he could release. So, watch that space, as the home goods companies like Lowe's and Home Depot and Ikea accelerated their inventory switchovers to energy-efficient lighting. In fact, a reader reports that the bulbs are available for ordering through Destination Lighting.

Smith says the company expects to have two products out in 2011. Next in line is a replacement bulb for the "A" type, screw-in bulbs that you might know as A19 bulbs (here in the United States). Among the form factors that Vu1 expects to address is the traditional four-foot long fluorescent bulbs you would typically see in a commercial or institutional setting, he says.

Topics: Patents, Legal, IT Employment

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  • But what kind of light is it? How does it affect colors?

    How well does it spread? Incandescent light spreads further than fluorescent. You talked about everything but the kind of light the bulb gives.
    • RE: You've heard of CFL and LED light bulbs. Now get ready for ESLs.


      She also neglected to mention whether ESL's solves one of the big problems with CFL's, their inability to be used with dimmers.
      • RE: You've heard of CFL and LED light bulbs. Now get ready for ESLs.

        What part of "fully dimmable" don't you understand?
  • RE: You've heard of CFL and LED light bulbs. Now get ready for ESLs.

    This is good news since we have another choice in green lighting. We still do not have any options other than CFLs here in the Philippines.
  • RE: You've heard of CFL and LED light bulbs. Now get ready for ESLs.

    Interesting concept but I didn't see any mention of X-ray production on the company's web site. Since it uses technology similar to that in CRT's how does it solve that problem? I would have to know a little more before I would buy. That being said, I hope that it is a viable product as I absolutely hate CFL's and think that LED's have too many form factor issues.
    • RE: You've heard of CFL and LED light bulbs. Now get ready for ESLs.


      I am a kitchen designer who has followed Vu1 with great interest for the past year, and invested in the company. A few months ago I asked a similar question about the use of toxic phosphors in CRTs. The company representative's response was that the Vu1 R30 contains no toxic phospors. These lamps are much smaller that a typical CRT, and CRTs were not considered any threat.
      Wikipedia: "CRTs can emit a small amount of X-ray radiation as a result of the electron beam's bombardment of the shadow mask/aperture grille and phosphors. The amount of radiation escaping the front of the monitor is widely considered unharmful. The Food and Drug Administration regulations in 21 C.F.R. 1020.10 are used to strictly limit, for instance, television receivers to 0.5 milliroentgens per hour (mR/h) (0.13 ?C/(kg?h) or 36 pA/kg) at a distance of 5 cm (2 in) from any external surface; since 2007, most CRTs have emissions that fall well below this limit.["
      • RE: You've heard of CFL and LED light bulbs. Now get ready for ESLs.

        @pderas I don't think you're making a fair comparison since CRT glass contained quite a bit of lead (partly to improve the quality of the glass I know but also for shielding) If the esl bulb likewise contains lead then we simply have a choice of poison (i.e mercury or lead). When you get your bulb I suggest getting two rolls of film, hold one roll in various positions and orientations close to your bulb, then using both rolls of film take similar pictures and check for fogging once you have them developed.
    • RE: You've heard of CFL and LED light bulbs. Now get ready for ESLs.

      @fwelsh The following is a bit dated so some of information needs to be updated (for instance the bulb's lifespan is now rated at 10000 hours instead of 6000 hours). Regarding the question of X-Rays, led shielding and related issues the answers are: 1) ?No harmful or disruptive emissions of any sort (x-ray, EMI, UV, etc.) are emitted by an ESL bulb?, 2) ESL bulbs do not contain any toxic or harmful materials (mercury, leaded glass, etc.); they are ?trash bin disposable? and in municipalities that have the ability to recycle electronic components - ESL bulbs will be certified "recyclable".

      FYI, this issue has been discussed many times in many blogs and some have decided that there's not enough power to generate x-rays while others have concluded it is a combination of that and newer technologies. If you are still worried then I suggest you google for "Vu1 ESL x-ray" and read a few of these blogs. Also I'd recommend you lookup Professor Charles Hunt who has done a lot of testing for this bulb.
  • Sounds familiar

    Directing electrons at a phosphor-coated sheet of glass?

    This sounds like a "cathode ray tube". Not exactly cutting-edge technology.
    • RE: You've heard of CFL and LED light bulbs. Now get ready for ESLs.

      @doodlius I found this on their website FYI page:

      "ESL uniquely applies much of the science that has been proven over a long period of time in TV and CRT technology. However, ESL has made groundbreaking improvements in uniform electron distribution, energy efficiency, phosphor performance and manufacturing costs. More simply, CRT and TV technology is based on delivering an electron ?beam? and then turning pixels on and off very quickly. ESL technology is based on uniformly delivering a ?spray? of electrons that illuminate a large surface very energy efficiently over a long lifetime."
      • So the alleged non usage of phosphor is pure BS

        @Bill4 Guess the guy who posted earlier in the talkbacks did not read the memo from the company where he is allegedly investing.
    • That's what I was thinking. CRT without the picture.

      Which means a capacitor charged to a few thousand volts parked in your light bulb. How sweet is that. So, let's see. Your choices are: Mercury. Heart-stopping electrical potentials or lights about as bright as a firefly (LED). All because a bunch of propagandists in cahoots with a bunch of statists have convinced people that plant food is killing the planet.
      • RE: You've heard of CFL and LED light bulbs. Now get ready for ESLs.

        @frgough , I assume you mean CO2. True, it's plant food, but you might have noticed we've done a good job at chopping down the largest plant consumers of CO2 over the last century, while increasing their food. And, if more food is a good thing generally, why is obesity such a killer?
      • From your own words ... CO2 is not the problem

        @rgcustomer@... I guess people who buy into illogical findings always ignore their own words.

        You talk about CO2, but completely missed the part about what is the real problem. Destruction of CO2 processing forest land. That is something that can be easily and cheaply controlled and reversed in the long run.
  • RE: You've heard of CFL and LED light bulbs. Now get ready for ESLs.

    More options for efficiency are great. I am sure as these become more widely available, more analysis will come along. Hopefully they can hit a sweet spot for the majority of the important factors. It would also be great if we could manufacturer them in the U.S. and export them to add jobs and increase our exports. Only time will tell.
  • RE: You've heard of CFL and LED light bulbs. Now get ready for ESLs.

    Those who want to get an early look can order one or more Vu1 R30s from They are currently sold out, but stock should be available in a week or so.
  • Sounds like a glorified CRT

    What you've described is a Cathode-Ray Tube. You know, the kind of thing that used to be used for televisions and computer monitors before LCD and Plasma displays became affordable.

    Not sure how they got any patents on nearly 100-year-old technology. If they're trying to patent CRT technology, or even successfully patenting it, then their patents are invalid.

    The other problem with any type of electron-accelerate phosphor technology is, of course, X-rays. All CRT technology emits a certain amount of X-rays, and we know how harmful those can be to the health. Compare that to the UV light emitted by CFL lighting, and LED lighting is starting to look pretty nice right about now.
    • RE: You've heard of CFL and LED light bulbs. Now get ready for ESLs.

      Patents have a 20 year life cycle. How is a successful patent not valid?
  • It's Junk

    The VU1 produces 600 lumens, which is less than a 800 lumen 60 watt incandescent bulb. It uses 19.5 watts, which is higher than a CFL would use for the same light output. A 20 watt cfl puts out 1300 lumens, or over twice as much light. The VU1 costs 2-3 times what a CFL does. The VU1 CRI is 85, which can easily be matched or bettered by a lot of CFLs. The manufacturer does not actually state how long the bulb will last nor what light frequency it produces. I am not going to rush out and by an inferior product, just because it is new.
  • RE: You've heard of CFL and LED light bulbs. Now get ready for ESLs.

    Edison's invention is looking more and more attractive