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LEDs Will Become Pivotal to Optoelectronics Industry

Photonics Spectra
Jul 2003
Anne L. Fischer

New configurations of LEDs will be key to innovative optoelectronic applications, according to Kathryn M. Conway, author of a recently released report by Intertech Corp. of Portland, Maine. LEDs are diversifying, and multiple solutions will become available not only to drive the market, but also to change the way we light our world.

Just as in other industries, the need to manufacture quicker, better and cheaper is the driving force right now. Automakers, for example, turn to this new form of lighting because of its modularity and the ease with which it can be snapped in on the assembly line. But LEDs also promise exciting styling possibilities that extend into every aspect of our lives.

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Automakers are turning to LEDs for lighting in new car models. The rear lights on the Infiniti sedan are red diodes, and the headlights are white.

Fast-growing applications include handheld and entertainment devices where dynamic lighting allows people to customize their environments. Illumination of walls in retail stores merges art with advertising and communications. Conway envisions a day when rooms will use LEDs to reflect the mood of music or the action in games, making possible a "fully immersive visual environment."

Energy conservation is another factor that's boosting the industry. Replacing conventional lamps could cut electricity demand by 10 to 15 percent for some applications by 2025. Traffic lights and channel letters on buildings are the primary targets for conversion, and billboards and retail lighting could be future ones. The report predicts that LEDs will be used increasingly to light electric signs in the US and will become a $2 billion business by 2010.

Thin-film technology has been key to the development of large-size LEDs. The report points to advances in nanotechnology, compound semiconductor materials, and enhanced manufacturing and packaging techniques as enabling a new generation. White light also will play an important role, Conway predicts, but one that will depend on an increasing investment in phosphors.

This technology is giving the century-old electric lighting industry an exciting new look. More than 500 companies worldwide are making solid-state lighting a reality. Looking to the future, the report suggests that everything from flashlights to display screens that turn the facades of buildings into morphing "skins" will be lighted by this new wave of technology and design creativity.

"Light-Emitting Diodes for Lighting and Display Applications" is available from Intertech at www.intertechusa.com/LEDreport/html. for $4495. An LED resource guide can be purchased separately for $295.


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