Emitting Diodes

LED Lighting: “Daylight, Now in a Headlight”

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Light Emitting Diodes (LED’s) and new technology

car_headlight-resized-600Audi’s recent Superbowl commercial showcased the introduction of LED lighting into their headlights. The catch phrase at the end of the commercial, “Daylight, now in a headlight,” emphasizes car manufacturers attempt to replicate the sun’s light spectrum, in a headlight. Using LED lighting in car headlights is a relatively new technology, but has the potential to become mainstream for automobile companies. The largest obstacle to date is the high price tag for LED lighting. Nevertheless, LED lighting’s combination of high intensity and reliability, make it a far superior option.

Finite Element Analysis

Since this a relatively new technology for car use, mechanical engineers must address various design issues that pertain specifically to LEDs. For instance, LED lighting is most energy efficient at low temperatures and requires specific headlight casing to avoid overheating. To address this thermal management issue, mechanical engineers can use Finite Element analysis (FEA) to design headlight casing that allows for free convection. The free flow of air can naturally cool the LED instead of relying on a fan device that may malfunction.

Due to the cost of materials, packaging and manufacturing to produce LED lighting, most car companies that use LEDs are on the higher end. LED lights require intricate circuit boards, known as LED drivers by optomechanical engineers, in order to deliver the correct electrical current. LED devices are current driven, not voltage driven, and need direct current (DC) going in one direction for efficient operation. LED drivers are required to insure this process happens for this lighting system and are one of the significant cost adders.

LED lighting in cars needs less complex circuitry because the car runs at a lower amplitude DC voltage. LED lighting requires some form of conditioning circuit; however, the less complex the circuitry, the lower the price point. In general, car manufacturers’ can benefit by investing resources into LED automobile lighting, especially electric car manufacturers. LEDs lighting is a natural choice for electrical cars because of the need to save electrical energy to prolong battery charge.

What does this mean for the lighting industry’s future? LED engineering teams have an advantage by developing this technology is a niche market, the automotive industry. Improving LED lighting and reducing costs allows LED engineering teams to prep themselves for the largest market of all, home lighting.


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