The 1 Million Lumen Lamp

A single 1 Million Lumen High Intensity Discharge Lamp gives more light than 1 000 conventional filament bulbs.

While there is currently a period of fast advancement in LED lights, older technologies as High Intensity Discharge Lamps (HID) (also called High-Pressure Discharge), and Fluorescent Lamps/Tubes (also called Low Intensity Discharge) are taking big steps forward.

What is a 1 Million Lumen Light used for?

It is intended to light up indoor and outdoor TV sets. For example, if you would want to shoot a daylight scene in New York City, how could you avoid blocking the road? You could shoot at night and use some 1 Million Lumen Lights to make it brighter than daylight.
Lights with more than 1 million lumen are produced by several manufacturers. Philips has one called MSR 12000 HR. It can be bought for about $ 2 000. The length and width are 460 x 72 mm / 18 x 2.8 inch. The weight is 1.25 kg / 2.7 pounds. While using it, you will consume about 12 kilowatts per hour to generate 1 million lumen. The lifespan is 300 hours.

What is a High Intensity Discharge Lamp (HID)

A HID lamp works by creating an arc of light between two electrodes that are separated by a gap. There is no filament between the electrodes. The electrodes are enclosed in a ceramic or quartz arc tube, that is called the burner. The tube is under high pressure and contains the gas argon or xenon and, for most kinds of lamps, also mercury and metal-halide salts as scandium and sodium iodides.
Before the HID lamp reaches its full brightness and color temperature, it must complete the ignition and warm-up stages. Ignition is nowadays controlled electronically by an electronic control gear (ECG) that also supplies the correct square-wave voltage during operation. When the lamp is turned on, the ECG will supply high-voltage impulses of up to 50 kV to the lamp. The high-voltage impulses create sparks that ionize the gas, and thereby create a conductive tunnel between the electrodes. Current flows between the electrodes creating an arc of light. At this point the HID lamp does not yet have its full brightness and its final color temperature. To reach that state, the HID lamp needs to head up several hundred degrees Celsius, until the mercury and metal-halide salts vaporize. The ECG will supply excess load to speed-up the heating.
Some Xenon Short-Arc Lamps do not contain mercury and metal-halide salts, and thus light up instantly.
Some often used groups of HID lights are Metal Halide Lamps (MH), High-Pressure Sodium Vapor Lamps, Ultra-High-Performance Lamps (UHP), or Xenon Short-Arc Lamps.
HID lamps are used to light up TV sets, football stadiums, airports, stores, bridges, and streets. They are also used as HID-Xenon-flashlight, for underwater diving, as plant grow lights, reptile lighting, automotive headlamps, for TV and cinema projection, to treat winter depressions, and for other applications.

What are the Key Advantages of HID Lamps

The reason why HID lights are so popular is because of the following properties:

  • Long service life
  • Good luminous efficacy (lumen per watt)
  • Good to very good color rendering
  • UV light emittance if used without UV-filter
  • Small size and no cooling or heat sink needed
  • High intensity up to and above 1 mio lumen
  • Point light source

The first two properties, service life and luminous efficacy, are shared by other energy-saving light bulbs as LEDs or fluorescent lamps. Superior color rendering with a Color Rendering Index (CRI) up to 96 Ra has been attractive to shops, supermarkets, TV filming and photography. Xenon Short-Arc Lamps, that are used in cinema projectors, even have a CRI close to 100 Ra. The wide color spectrum, that includes UV light (if the lamp does not have a UV-filter), is a necessary property for reptile lighting and plant growth. The small size of the bulb and operation without cooling (except for some high performance Xenon Short-Arc Lamps that have water cooling) makes HID lamps compact and thus useful in many places. HID lamps can be bought with different intensities. The available intensities include 35 W (3 500 lm), 70 W (7 000 lm), 150 W (1 500 lm), 250 W (25 000 lm), 400 W (40 000 lm), 1 000 W (100 000 lm), 2 500 W (240 000 lm) and 12 000 W (1 Mio lm). Lastly, HID lamps are characterized by a narrow beam angle, often between 10° - 30°. This spot light is not only useful for automotive headlamps and TV projectors, but also to accentuate things. Instead of having a uniform brightness in a room, it is usually more interesting to have several light sources that create shadows and light spots.

Why are HID Lamps Not Popular with Consumers

The reason why the lights are not so popular with consumers is because of the following properties. Xenon Short-Arc Lamps do not share most of those properties, so they are covered in the next paragraph.

  • Long starting time
  • Low number of switching cycles
  • Not dimmable
  • Relative high mercury content

The first two properties, start-up time and switching cycles, are quite important for home use. HID lamps need about 30 seconds to light up while an LED needs less than one second. Further, most HID lamps do not support hot restart. This means, once you turn them off, you need to wait about two minutes before they can be turned on again. The lamps are designed for long-term operation, not for frequent switching. One manufacturer states in his technical guide: "The lamps should be operated for at least 3 hours and should remain off for at least 30 minutes." Concerning the third property, you cannot dim HID lamps like many LEDs. Some HID lamps are stated to be dimmable, but the technical details will then list a number of restrictions that make it impractical. Concerning the last point, mercury, also known as quicksilver is a toxic metallic element. The 7.6 mg mercury that a 3 440 lumen HCI Powerball from Osram contains could threaten your health if the bulb would break and you would not take proper provisions for ventilation and cleanup.
The picture below shows the 70 Watt Osram HCI Powerball Metal halide Lamp with a Ceramic Arc Tube. It has 3 440 lm and a CRI of 95 Ra.

Why are Xenon Short-Arc Lamps Not Popular with Consumers

Xenon Short-Arc Lamps have quite different properties compared to other HID lamps as Metal Halide Lamps. They start-up instantly, often support hot restart, are dimmable and have a color rendering index close to 100 Ra. The color temperature of Xeon Arc Lamps is about 6 000 Kelvin (Daylight). So in short, a Xenon Arc Lamp is a very close replacement to sunlight.
While these are quite favorable properties, they come with drawbacks. First, Xenon Short-Arc Lamps are not energy efficient. For example the Osram XBO R 180 W/45 C OFR has 180 watts but only produces 800 lumen. Second, their lifespan is very short. It is only 500 - 2 500 hours.
Automobile Xenon headlamps are often not pure Xenon-Arc Lamps when they contain metal-halide salts. The meltal-halide salts make the color less blue and more yellow after the lamp is heated up.


Osram High-Pressure Discharge Lamps FAQ

Osram Installation of Lamp

Osram Metal-Halide-Lamps

Osram Powerball-HCI

1 Mio Lumen Lamp for TV Studio

500 000 Lumen Lamp for Cinema Projection

Osram Pure Xenon Short-Arc Lamps

Car with 82,000 Lumens Lights

Article explaining HID/Xenon Headlamps