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Are ESL bulbs better than CFL or LED?

Vu1 says its Electron Stimulated Luminescence bulbs are safer and better quality than CFL and LED lights. Is ESL the next big thing in lighting?

Vu1's conceptual design for its R-30 bulb. Vu1

A novel design for energy-efficient lightbulbs can produce incandescent-quality light and does not contain mercury like compact fluorescents (CFLs), according to manufacturer Vu1.

The Seattle-based firm has been working on an alternative to CFLs and LED lights for five years and just rolled out a demo video, below.

Vu1's Electron Stimulated Luminescence (ESL) lights can last up to 6,000 hours, about three to four times the lifespan of incandescents and comparable to CFLs. They produce 50 percent less heat than incandescents.

The ESL bulbs contain an electron source that fires electrons at a proprietary luminescent phosphor, which then glows. The screw-in apparatus is encased in standard lightbulb glass.

One disadvantage to CFLs is they contain about 5 milligrams of mercury, a small amount but enough to prompt some jurisdictions to ban dumping them in the trash. Burnt-out CFL bulbs should be disposed of with hazardous waste where possible or returned to the retailer, which then recycles them. The EPA recommends evacuating the room if a CFL bulb breaks.

ESL bulbs will be trash-bin disposable, according to Vu1.

Meanwhile, LED bulbs are energy efficient at around 40,000 to 50,000 hours a bulb but tend to be expensive. For instance, Panasonic's new EverLeds light will likely retail for around $40 when it hits stores in Japan next month.

Vu1's ESL bulb would be around $20 when it hits the market, according to spokesman James Quick. Vu1 might market the bulb in mid-2010 if its funding holds up. It plans to begin manufacturing at its EU plant by the end of this year.

The company says its ESL bulbs would produce light that's "essentially indistinguishable" from incandescents, contrasting it with the greenish or bluish light from CFLs and LEDs. To my eye, the ESL light in the video looks a shade colder than incandescent.

The prototype ESL R-30 bulb, which would replace a 65-watt incandescent bulb, has a color rendering index of more than 90 and a color temperature of 2800K, according to Vu1. It also turns on instantly and is fully dimmable.

ESL looks quite promising. Let's see if this bright idea makes it to market.