By Jessica Squires, Contributor, BizLED Bureau
January 14, 2015: Vying with each other, car manufacturers are using more sophisticated lighting technologies and are looking beyond LED lighting. One sophisticated lighting technology is laser light. BMW and Audi are featuring laser lights with LED lighting in their BMW i8 and Audi R8, respectively. While the basic version of BMW i8 has high intensity, energy-efficient LED headlamps, the optional laser boost feature ensures a high beam range of up to 600 metres, which means that the already high illumination range of the modern LED high beam is doubled. ?Thanks to the new laser technology, it is possible to increase energy efficiency by a further 30% compared to already highly power-saving LED light,? says a BMW press release. Audi, on the other hand, combines MatrixBeam LED and laser light technologies.
Two low-profile trapezoidal elements are visible within the headlights?the outer one generates the low beam light using MatrixBeam LEDs and an aperture mask, while the inner element produces laser light for high-beam functionality, according to Audi.
LEDs and laser diodes have the same light generating structures. While LEDs depend on emission of light, laser diodes contain mirror structures that stimulate emission within the structure and increase the amount of light. As a result, it got its name?laser: Light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation
Efficiency is the key factor for laser lights
Laser lights are even more energy-efficient than regular LEDs. BMW quotes figures of about 100 lumen per watt for LED lighting compared to 170 lumen per watt for laser lighting.
Another advantage of lasers over LEDs is that the efficiency of lasers increases at higher currents, compared to the efficiency ?droop? of LEDs.
According to BMW, laser diodes are 10 times smaller than conventional light diodes. They help to save not only the available installation space inside the headlamp, but also reduces the weight. The size of the reflector surface can be reduced by a factor of up to 10 Vs. LED light. The height of the reflector has now been reduced from the previous 9 cm to less than 3 cm.
The light of a laser headlamp is extremely bright, similar to daylight, which is perceived by the human eye as pleasant. Several high-performance diodes emit a strongly bundled beam via special lenses onto a fluorescent phosphorus substance inside the headlamp. This substance transforms the beam into an exceptionally bright white light that is 10 times more intensive than conventional light sources.
Lasers, however, have some limitations. Due to their intensity, they only work above 60kph, and when sensors detect no other light ahead. The lasers can’t be used to flash, and, therefore, it will not be used in the US as they far exceed brightness standards. The idea of laser beams used as car headlights created some concerns over optical safety because of the extremely narrow spot size in laser. However, this issue can be resolved with a suitable optical system. The extremely narrow line width of the laser sources is another concern. Four very narrow peaks at red, blue, green and yellow wavelengthscannot be expected to give good color rendering, compared to much broader peaks from LEDs. Size is also a concern because laser diodes have a length of just 10 microns while LEDs measure 1×1 mm.
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