The market for infrared (IR) light sources is not new, but has evolved rapidly with the recent development of Solid-State Lighting (SSL). Initially developed for optical communication applications, LEDs and laser diodes started to be integrated into high-volume applications (like remote controls for IR LEDs or data centers for laser diodes…) in the 1980s/1990s. But it’s only recently, with the development of smartphones, that IR LEDs and laser diodes have come back to prominence. And now, the market is set for growth for the next 10 years as the automotive sector, among other emerging applications, is also implementing high-value functions using those light sources.
In its new report IR LEDs and Laser Diodes – Technology, Industry and Market Trends, Yole Développement proposes a comprehensive analysis of the IR LEDs and Laser Diodes trends. This report outline Yole’s understanding of the industrial and market landscape, its evolution as well as the technical challenges of IR Solid State Lighting (SSL) devices, and their integration into systems.
Yole Développement’s analysts, Pierrick Boulay, Technology & Market Analyst specialized in Solid State Lighting including IR Lighting, recently had the opportunity to share his vision of the industry with Dr. Joerg Strauss, Head of Business Segment Emitter Laser Sensor (ELS) at OSRAM Opto Semiconductors.
(Yole Développement, IR LEDs and Laser Diodes – Technology, Applications, and Industry Trends, 2018)
Pierrick Boulay: Can you describe recent trends in automotive regarding LiDAR, and involvement of Osram Opto Semiconductor in this field?
Dr. Joerg Strauss: Making cars more driver-friendly, safer and more comfortable is a key trend in the automotive industry. The use of LiDAR in cars will increase in the future. This trend is partly due to the development of autonomous and semi-autonomous cars and partly to rising requirements demanded of car safety. Besides whether it’s detecting rainfall, combined with turning on the wipers and adjusting their wiping speed automatically, or adjusting the brightness of displays and interior lights, depending on the intensity of the ambient lighting – trifles such as these improve driving. Many of these systems are based on the use of infrared light. No matter if adaptive cruise control, pre-crash systems, blind spot detection or LiDAR – Osram Opto Semiconductors has the right IREDs and infrared lasers for those automotive applications in its broad product portfolio.
Scanning and Flash LiDAR is one key technology necessary for advanced driver assistance systems designed to increase road safety and enable autonomous driving. These electronic assistants are never distracted; they react instantly, without wasting precious seconds. A car going at 80 kilometers per hour will drive 22 more meters during just one second a human driver might take to act. LiDAR creates high-resolution 3D images of a car’s surroundings and registers obstacles early enough for ADAS or self-driving cars to act. LiDAR is going to play a key role in the future, especially with respect to partially or fully self-driving vehicles. Flash and scanning LiDAR are – besides cameras and radar – among the key technologies for autonomous and semi-autonomous driving. Osram provides lasers and detectors for both technologies.
More than 15 years ago, Osram was one of the first suppliers of pulse laser diodes to automotive assistance systems. Since then the company has developed a wide IR Laser product range tailored to the needs of this market, i.e. novel LiDAR systems such as MEMS-based scanning LiDAR.
PB: To your opinion, what will be the trend regarding the light source used by LIDAR manufacturers? According to Yole Développement’s analysts, EEL is currently the only light source. However VCSELs might have a strong potential. What do you think?
Dr. JS: We believe within OSRAM that EEL laser will continue to be beneficial compared to VCSEL in LiDAR applications. Primary reason is the required laser power for LiDAR which is hard to achieve with a reasonable light emission area by VCSEL technology.
PB: Driver monitoring system using camera and IR light source is a solution more and more investigated by automotive players. Could you explain to our readers the role of such system? How will it evolve with the development of autonomous vehicles?
Dr. JS: Driver monitoring systems can help to reduce fatal accidents caused by drowsy or distracted drivers. In autonomous driving cars of level 3 and higher it is a mandatory feature, because the car must be able to return the responsibility of driving back to the driver in a critical situation without delay. This is also incorporated in the regulations of the EURO NCAP Agenda 2025, where driver monitoring is required to achieve a top security rating.
(Flash and scanning LiDAR are – besides cameras and radar – among the key technologies for autonomous and semi-autonomous driving. Osram provides lasers and detectors for both technologies)
PB: Mobile/smartphone represent also a strong market driver for IR lighting source, can you give us your vision on such application?
Dr. JS: Many of the key technologies behind advancements in mobile devices, including smartphones, tablets and wearables, are based on the ubiquitous use of light. Display lighting and flash applications are only scratching the surface of possibilities, while developments in infrared and laser technologies are further enabling a variety of functions in a wide spectrum of markets. Gesture recognition, iris scan (Osram was first to market an infrared LED that enabled reliable iris scanners to be used in smartphones and other mobile devices in 2014) or face recognition are just a few examples of how infrared light can be used in mobile devices.
Biometrical user identification is making ways in mobile device security. Iris scanning and facial recognition are among the most reliable and secure biometric user identification methods. They are an alternative to complex password management for mobile device security, access control, and increasingly verification for payments and other financial transactions. Biometrics make use of human characteristics, such as specific structures within the iris, facial features or fingerprints. Sensors identify these characteristics and compare them with previously stored biometrical data. In order to function reliably in mobile devices, both iris scanning and facial recognition require specific infrared LEDs to illuminate the target area.
Osram Opto Semiconductors has been a leading supplier of optoelectronic components and solutions for nearly four decades. Our company has a proven record of successfully serving automotive, consumer and industrial markets. We are the perfect partner for the development of novel solutions for biometric identification. Osram Opto Semiconductors is complementing its comprehensive infrared technology portfolio with vertical-cavity surface-emitting laser (VCSEL) solutions to help customers and clients to profit from the benefits VCSEL technology offers in various applications fields and to choose the best suited solution for each application. VCSEL is a laser diode which radiates the light vertically to the surface of the semiconductor chip, as opposed to edge-emitting laser diodes, where the light exits at the edge of the chip. The decisive features of the surface emitter are the lower production costs compared to edge emitters and the superior beam quality but lower output power. As a surface mountable component, VCSEL combines the characteristics of a LED with those of a laser.
Osram has expanded its portfolio of infrared technology for safety-critical applications utilizing VCSELs with the acquisition of Vixar.
(Infrared light sources from OSRAM provide a bright and uniform illumination of the user’s face for facial recognition applications)
PB: Today, 3D sensing is limited to front side of smartphone applications for face recognition function. Will it extend to the rear of smartphone? What are the possible applications and challenges regarding the integration of such module?
Dr. JS: The backside is even expected to eventually be the larger market compared to the front side of mobile devices. Today mainly ToF (Time of Flight) is discussed for 3D scanning. Scanning of the environment, rooms (Augmented and Mixed Reality) will become more important. Also applications like face recognition or gesture recognition are discussed for the backside.
Head of Business Segment Emitter Laser Sensor (ELS), Dr. Joerg Strauss is heading the business segment Emitter Laser Sensor (ELS) at OSRAM Opto Semiconductors. In this function he is business responsible and in charge of marketing, product development and application engineering for all OS products beyond visible LED such as IR LED, IR VCSEL, visible and IR laser as well as sensor/ photo diode products. Prior to his current assignment, Joerg assumed various Senior Management positions at OSRAM in Business, R&D and Industrialization both in Germany and the US.
As part of the Photonics, Sensing & Display division at Yole Développement (Yole), Pierrick Boulay works as Market and Technology Analyst in the fields of LED, OLED and Lighting Systems to carry out technical, economic and marketing analysis. He has experience in both LED lighting (general lighting, automotive lighting…) and OLED lighting. In the past, he has mostly worked in R&D department for LED lighting applications. Pierrick holds a master degree in Electronics (ESEO – France).
IR LEDs and Laser Diodes – Technology, Applications, and Industry Trends
Application proliferation and technology diversity are reshaping the IR light source industry. – Get more
VCSELs – Technology, Industry and Market Trends
3D sensing – and more – in smartphones will drive the VCSEL market for the next five years. – Get more
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