Induction lamps are nothing new; the technology has been around since the early nineties but only in recent months have seen real usable components becoming available to pioneering light companies. Induction lamps come in a bulb and in circular form factors but it’s the tubular induction lamps with high power ratings that really have our attention. Looking somewhat like a giant power compact, tubular induction lamp are rated for a lifetime of up to 100,000 hours and up to 400 watts each!
Induction lamps work basically very similar to a typical fluorescent lamp, but instead of being powered through electrodes, an induction lamp is powered by magnetic induction. The magnetic field produced by the magnetic induction assembly excites mercury until it produces ultraviolet light, which then activates the phosphor coating of the lamp exactly the same way that a traditional fluorescent lamp works.
Tubular induction lamps are currently are available in a range of sizes from 40 watts all the way to 400 watts. Induction lamps are very efficient and they last a long time but don’t throw away your LEDs quite yet. Induction lamps have a lamp efficiency of 67 lumens per watt (lm/w) for the 40 watters and all the way up to 86lm/w for the 400 watters, but some of the energy efficiency gains do get lost in the system.
Finally, induction lamps are extremely cool running. Even a 400 watt induction lamp only has a surface temperature of 80 degrees Fahrenheit which means that it doesn’t need a fan, and very little heat is transferred to the aquarium or plants that you happen to be growing. Additionally, because there are no electrodes to corrode and pollute the phosphor coating, light intensity and fidelity is maintained over a much longer period of time and it is expected that induction lamps have the potential to retain 70% luminosity after 60,000 hours.
We don’t yet know of any aquarium lighting companies working to bring tubular or circular induction lamps to market. The price of the basic driver components are still expensive but not really out of this world if you consider the potential longevity of the system. The list price for a 400 watt Fulham High Horse induction lamp and ballast is about $670 before you even get it in a fixture or give it a specially designed reflector, of which there are none at the moment. If induction lamps really live up to the promise, they may overtake LEDs in the larger aquarium lighting market but until we actually see some of these lamps in action over real coral and fish tanks, it’s anybody’s guess if there is a future for induction lamps in the aquarium hobby.