Automotive Industry Fully Embraces LEDs

Audi with LED headlights

The automotive industry has embraced LED lighting.  LED headlights caused a sensation when Audi put full LED headlights in the A8 in 2008.  Since then, the automotive market has been drawn to LEDs for not only forward exterior illumination, but also brake lights and interior lighting including dashboard illumination, instrument clusters, and entertainment system controls.

LEDs have become part of the color scheme of the car interior and a significant part of how each manufacturer brands its cars.  LED-based lighting is in many 2012 cars such as BMWs, Infinities, Lexus, Toyotas, Fords, Chevys and even the Rolls Royce.  Audi even featured LED headlights in their 2012 Super Bowl commercial about vampires (they died as the headlights caught them around a campfire).

The main drivers for auto manufacturers are power efficiency and the way that LEDs work with a car’s electrical system that helps save fuel. For example, LED headlights are four times as efficient as halogen lamps and require the vehicle’s alternator to replenish less energy, saving fuel.  These benefits are good for the environment.  According to Audi, cars equipped with LED headlights accounted for a reduction of 25,000 tons of CO2 emissions in the first year of sales.

For Additional Reading:

LEDs Magazine, Audi’s LED headlights are key feature in Super Bowl ad,

LEDs Magazine, Automotive industry embraces LED use for forward lighting,


LED Lighting & the Road to Success

Space on store shelves for lighting is filled with LED and CFL bulbs.

Management consulting firm McKinsey & Company says that the global LED lighting market will grow 34% from 2010 to 2016 (CAGR).  The researchers expect the LED lighting market to grow to almost $94 billion US by 2020, representing close to 60% of the total lighting market.  Market penetration of LEDs in general lighting (also known as solid state lighting) is about seven percent In Asia, North America and Europe, but is expected to expand to around 70% by 2020.

Government subsidies and regulation worldwide have promoted alternatives to incandescent lighting to save energy.  Recently, enforcement efforts to promote alternative lighting took a slight turn, but it may not matter.  That horse may have left the barn as other governments around the world are moving ahead with their regulations and incentives

During the first week in June, Republicans in the US House adopted a provision designed to give Thomas Edison’s invention a little more life.  Language in the provision blocks enforcement of the new energy standard for lighting.  The first phase of the standard, passed as part of Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, has been challenged by members of Congress connected to the Tea Party. In a Bloomberg story, Michael Burgess, a Texas Republican that sponsored the light bulb amendment said, “People are sick of the government treading where it just doesn’t belong.” The US Senate has yet to vote on the measure.

Despite the politics and regulations, the allure of saving money may be enough to propel the LED light bulb to success in the US. LED light bulbs have made significant progress in the manufacturing community.  Many manufacturers have already retooled and transitioned to make the next generation light bulbs.  The North American market for suppliers of LED lamps is estimated to be about $55 million, and projected to grow by about 32% per year between 2012 and 2016, said Konkana Khaund, building technologies research manager at the consulting firm Frost & Sullivan.

Solid state lighting is gaining ground around the world simply based on the economics of energy savings and low maintenance costs.


LEDs Magazine, Lighting market report predicts strong growth for LED lighting,

Bloomberg News, House Adopts Measure to Halt Light-Bulb Efficiency Law,

Emerging Markets for Sapphire, Part 1 — SoS

SoS improves performance and integration for RF circuits found in smart phones.

While LED is the largest market for sapphire, there are several other emerging markets that take advantage of the physical attributes of sapphire.  We’ll take a look at these emerging markets over the next month or so.   We will begin with Silicon on Sapphire (SoS) for the RFIC market.

SoS is a part of the Silicon on Insulator (SOI) family of CMOS (Complementary metal–oxide–semiconductor) technology for making integrated circuits.  SoS improves performance and integration for RF circuits.  The holy grail of the wireless industry has been finding a better way to optimize power consumption and real estate utilization in mobile phones.  One application for SoS technology is the production of RF chips used in the antenna switch in smart phones.  These SoS chips are significantly smaller and use less power than chips traditionally used for this application.  As a result, chips produced using SoS technology are rapidly gaining market share in the mobile phone industry.

Peregrine Semiconductor is a pioneer in SoS and holds much of the industry’s IP in SoS.  In an interview with EE Times in 2011, Dr. Ronald E. Reedy, Peregrine co-founder said, “SoS is the first and most successful form of SOI focused entirely on improving performance and integration for RF circuits. We saw the emerging need for such a technology when commercial wireless communications started taking off in the early 1990s.”

What makes sapphire so good for SoS? Peregrine summarized it in a paper on the history on SoS. Sapphire and silicon have a unique way of lining up together at an atomic level because of oxygen atoms.  The scientific explanation is that the r-plane of sapphire has oxygen atoms spaced at a distance that is close to the spacing of the atoms in the (100) plane of a silicon crystal.  The spacing delivers unique insulating properties when the silicon is layered on top of the sapphire wafer.  This was discovered by researchers at Boeing in 1963.  Researchers at RCA continued the development of SoS technology into the mid-1970s and continue to process them for space applications.

Technological barriers leading to defects held SoS back from commercial applications until just recently.  Peregrine has been able to overcome these hurdles at just the right time as the wireless industry needs the insulating and power saving benefits of SoS for the latest generations of smart phones.  You’ll find more coverage of the emerging market in posts to come.

For Further Reading:

Electronics Weekly, Peregrine: Single chip phone RF is possible

EE Times, What’s up with silicon on sapphire?,

Peregrine Semiconductor Corporation, The History of Silicon on Sapphire,,