Industrial

Plasma lighting firm lost £18m in three years

ONE OF THE world’s leading specialists in plasma lighting lost £18 million in the last three years alone, newly available figures reveal. 

Ceravision – based in Milton Keynes in the UK – had a turnover of just £43,000 in the year to November 2019, £21,000 to November 2018 and no sales in the 12 months to November 2017.

Company filings state it had ‘other operating income’ in 2017 of £800,000 but that it had accumulated historical losses of some £60 million to the end of that year alone. 

Last month, the High Court of Justice appointed insolvency practitioners and corporate recovery specialist Begbies Traynor as administrators of the once highly-regarded firm, which patented the world’s first high efficiency plasma (HEP) lighting system.

Leeds-based auctioneers and company disposal specialist Eddisons – which was hired in January to look for a buyer for Ceravision’s assets pending the appointment of the joint administrators – published the turnover figures in its prospectus to potential buyers.

A document titled ‘project light bulb’ says that ‘an opportunity has arisen to acquire the business and assets of an innovative company developing and manufacturing UV plasma lighting focused on the horticulture sector.

‘This will be a sale out of administration and will require initial operating capital, with further investment to develop and grow the business’.

The key features of the company, it states, include its multi-million pound investment to date, its worldwide patented product, its accreditation to ISO 9001 and 14001 and its centrally located R&D and production facility.

The plasma lighting technology was initially developed as a high-output alternative to LED technology, and the company targeted applications such as large-area applications such as warehouses and factories. 

However, the increasing efficiency and falling prices of LEDs meant sales of plasma lighting were slow.

In recent years, the company had been targeting the horticulture sector as the  spectrum of plasma lighting contains the ultra-violet light blocked by greenhouse glass and unavailable from other grow-lights.

The company was heavily dependent on venture capital and received funding under the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS), which offered investors 20 per cent tax relief if they held shares in the company for three years. 

At one stage, the company counted Ann Summers chief executive Jacqueline Gold and her husband among its investors.

HOW PLASMA WORKS

Plasma has long interested scientists and the lighting industry as a possible commercial light source. 

It requires two components: a magnetron – a radio-frequency (RF) driver that creates an electrical field – and a light emitter. 

These two components are connected by the generated electrical field; there is no wired connection as the light emitter is excited by induction.

Light is created when the radio-frequency signal created by the RF driver is focused via a waveguide into the small quartz glass vial that is the light emitter. 

This emitter contains a gaseous mixture that determines the colour and brightness of the illumination.

The focused energy field ionises the gas and the resulting atomic interaction raises the energy state of the electrons, forming a column of plasma within the light emitter. That plasma column in turn radiates visible light.

The small size of the light emitter enables efficient control of the light beam.

Further, the mixture of elements within the light emitter provides for very high colour quality, typically in excess of Ra90.

The ability to mix elements also provides for specialist applications such as horticulture and UV treatments.

Light output from plasma light engines are high, with the lowest available wattage being around 300W. Light engines have a luminous efficacy ranging from 60lm/W to above 100lm/W.