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LED lighting future getting brighter

Posted: 16 May 2013 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:LED? tablet?

In general lighting as well as in automotive lighting and many other market segments, LEDs are becoming increasingly popular for their longevity and energy efficiency. Nevertheless there are some obstacles and caveat a user should know to get really successful implementations.

The market size for high brightness (HB) LEDs is expected to reach $20.2 billion by 2015a CAGR of 30.6 per cent from 2012 (according to Strategies Unlimited). One of the key application areas driving this significant growth factor are the LEDs used to backlight thin film transistor (TFT) liquid-crystal displays (LCDs). Applications range from high definition (HD) TVs and portable tablet PCs to automotive displays and a myriad of handheld communication devices. However, in order to maintain this impressive growth rate LEDs must not only offer enhanced reliability, reduced power consumption and more compact form factors, but they must also provide improvements in contrast ratios and colour accuracy. Furthermore, in automotive, avionic and marine displays all of these improvements must be optimised while simultaneously being subjected to a wide array of ambient lighting conditions ranging from bright sunlight to moonless nights.

These TFT-LCD applications range from infotainment systems, gauge clusters and a wide array of instrument displays. Of course, backlighting these displays with LEDs creates some unique LED driver IC design challenges in order to optimise display readability across a myriad of lighting conditions. This requires LED drivers to offer very wide dimming ratios and high efficiency conversion while also withstanding the rigors of the demanding automotive electrical and physical environment. It goes without saying that these solutions must offer very low profile, compact footprints while simultaneously enhancing overall cost-effectiveness.

So, it is no surprise that commercial applications are leading the transition to LEDs as lighting generally represents from 25% to 40% of total energy use in commercial buildings. As these applications require long hours of high intensity light, the economic payback of the saved electrical power is relatively short-term. Secondly, the long life of LED fixtures dramatically reduces the replacement cost of the bulbs. These replacement costs not only include the price of the bulb itself, but also the labour cost to physically replace them, which in certain applications, such as high bay lighting, are significant. Conversely, at this time, general purpose LED lighting for household use is still too expensive for most consumers. However, in the coming years, as LED fixture prices decline and become more widely available, the residential sector of the lighting market will also grow substantially. Most analysts expect this segment of the market to accelerate in 2013 and beyond.

What is driving LED growth in automotive displays?

How can this impressive growth potential in automotive lighting be supported? First of all, LEDs are ten times more efficient at producing light than incandescent bulbs and almost twice as efficient as fluorescent lamps, including cold cathode fluorescent lamps (CCFL); thereby reducing the amount of electrical power required to deliver a given amount of light output (measured in lumens per watt). As LEDs are further developed, their efficacy, or ability to produce lumens of light output from an electrical power source, will only continue to rise. Secondly, in this environmentally conscious world of ours, LED lighting does not require the handling, exposure and disposal of the toxic mercury vapor commonly found in CCFL bulbs. Finally, incandescent bulbs are usually required to be replaced after approximately 1,000 hours of operation while fluorescent bulbs can last as long as 10,000 hours. However, these figures are dwarfed in comparison to the 100,000 hour plus lifetimes afforded by LED lighting.

In most applications, this extended operating lifetime allows for LEDs to be permanently embedded into the end-application. This is especially important for the backlighting of automotive clusters, instrumentation and infotainment panelswhich are often embedded into a vehicle's dashboard, since they will not require replacement during the working life of the car. Additionally, LEDs are orders of magnitude smaller and more compact than their counterparts so the LCD panels can be made extremely thin, thereby requiring minimal volumetric space in a vehicle's interior. Also, by using a configuration of red, green and blue LEDs, an infinite number of colours can be delivered. Furthermore, LEDs also have the ability to dim and turn on/off much faster than the human eye can detect, enabling significant improvements in backlighting of LCD displays while simultaneously allowing dramatic contrast ratios and a higher resolution picture.

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