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Brighter LEDs challenge car lamps

05 Apr 2005

Single LEDs are now bright enough to meet standards in the car industry.

Cars could soon be equipped with rear lights that are powered by a single LED thanks to a leap in the light output of the devices.

Lumileds, the Californian developer of high-brightness LEDs, claims to have developed a range of record-breaking LEDs that provide three times the lumen output of its best previous products.

The new red, red-orange and amber Luxeon III LEDs emit 140, 190 and 110 lumens respectively and offer a lifetime (50% drop in lumen output) of 20,000 hours when driven at 1400 mA.

“This is a huge milestone for the automotive industry because at these levels of performance it enables manufacturers to meet the standards for rear-combination lamps [optical unit featuring tail, brake and indicator light] with a single LED,” explained Steve Landau from Lumileds.

“And because you move to a single LED solution you start to have cost parity with a lamp system and that means that you can implement the technology on a broader range of vehicles.”

Aside from the automotive industry other potential applications are in the aviation, machine vision and architectural lighting sectors, where the new LEDs can be used with Lumileds’ existing range of green, blue and white Luxeon IIIs.

According to Landau the boost in lumen output has been enabled by the use of a larger LED chip (about 1 mm2) that can be driven at a higher current thanks to improvements in heat management and device design.

Can the technology be pushed further? Landau certainly believes so. “We will continue to make brighter and brighter products in terms of both lumens per package and lumens per watt,” said Landau. “I really don’t think that we know what those upper limits are yet.”

Oliver Graydon is editor of Optics.org and Opto & Laser Europe magazine.

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