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Power supplies for next-generation automotive lighting

Posted: 22 Jan 2008 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:power supply? automotive lighting? LED? CCFL?

Throughout the history of automobiles light sources always played an important role. Originally cars merely had front lights to find a way in the dark. Soon other light sources, taillights, and indicators were added for security and better organization in growing traffic. Warning and fog lights increased functionality for extreme conditions. Interior light sources such as cluster, dome, map or courtesy lighting added convenience for the driver and passengers. Except for the earliest models, all these light sources were electrically powered and used incandescent light bulbs.

In recent years LEDs and cold-cathode florescent lamps (CCFLs) are proving useful as light sources in automobiles. The key advantages of these new light sources are longer lifetime and better efficiency. Typical lifetimes for incandescent bulbs are specified at 10,000h, while florescent bulbs can reach 50,000h and LEDs up to 100,000h. This extended lifetime is a clear improvement for reliability and necessary maintenance, which ultimately reduces service costs. Other LED advantages include: low-voltage operation, low electromagnetic radiation, immunity to mechanical stress, wide operating temperature range, and a wide dimming range. With the ongoing improvements to LED technology it seems that eventually this technology will replace the other lighting options. Nonetheless, today CCFL definitely still has clear advantages in certain applications like backlighting of large areas and wherever high-power unfocussed light is needed.

Incandescent, CCLF, and LED light sources all need an electric power supply, and each technology has its special requirements. The power supplies must also perform additional application-specific functions. This article presents power supply solutions for LED and CCFL light sources. Design approaches are discussed for various automotive interior and exterior applications.

View the PDF document for more information.

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