Solid-state light sources drive new infrared lighting applications
According to Memes Consulting, Infrared Light Emitting Diodes (IR LEDs) and Laser Diodes (LDs) are not new technologies, having been around since the 1960s. However, there has been a rapid rise recently with the development of Solid State Lighting (SSL). LEDs and LDs were originally developed technologies for optical communication applications, and are now widely used in data communication/telecom, consumer electronics, automotive, and industrial fields to achieve more high-value functions.
Infrared light sources are classified by wavelength
Various LED and LD products have found their way:
– IR LEDs initially focused on low-end applications, such as photoelectric circuit breakers, remote controls, etc., are now increasingly used in proximity sensing in smartphones, gesture recognition in automobiles, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality ( AR) eye tracking in devices.
– The edge-emitting laser (EEL) market has historically been driven by optical communication applications. The EEL market will also continue to benefit due to the growing amount of data exchanged with fiber optic networks. However, growth drivers may also be found in new applications in the future, such as LiDAR (LiDAR).
– Vertical Cavity Surface Emitting Lasers (VCSELs) were used for short-range data communications in the early days. However, the iPhone X released by Apple in 2017 integrated 3D sensing functions based on VCSELs, which completely changed the commercialization prospects of VCSELs. , making it the fastest-growing solid-state light source technology in the current market, attracting a lot of money.
The main application development of VCSEL, EEL, IR LED
The above-mentioned infrared solid-state light sources have different semiconductor structures, and the epitaxy and semiconductor processes used are also different. They are output at different wavelengths/powers and offer different luminous profiles/shapes, resulting in a variety of product sizes to meet the needs of different applications. With the growing interest in photonic technology in the automotive and consumer sectors, the future is bright for infrared lighting applications!
Infrared light source market: expected to reach $6.5 billion in 2023
More than 40 applications have integrated infrared solid-state light sources. Some of these applications are expected to drive the IR LED and LD market to boom in the next five years!
Optical communication is one of the oldest applications of infrared light sources, and now, due to the explosion in the amount of Internet data, and the emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud services and autonomous vehicles, it will continue to drive the infrared light source market.
Industrial applications of infrared light sources are also expected to yield high yields in the coming years, driven by additive applications. Traditional infrared light sources such as IR LEDs are starting to be replaced by VCSELs, which can reduce power consumption.
3D sensing is becoming the “killer” application of infrared light sources. The 3D face recognition application of VCSEL in Apple’s iPhone X has aroused everyone’s strong interest, and many Android (Android) mobile phone manufacturers have followed Apple to release new smart phones with integrated VCSEL. However, 3D sensing technology can be used not only for mobile phone face recognition, but also for automotive lidar, which is a necessary technology for autonomous driving! Therefore, the field of 3D sensing has attracted many start-ups to enter, and set off a wave of 3D vision revolution!
Taken together, the infrared light source market is expected to reach $1.8 billion in 2018 and $6.5 billion in 2023, a CAGR of 29%.
Infrared light source market forecast
Infrared light source industry structure and maturity
Driven by the application of visible light lighting, today’s LED industry is quite mature. Almost all manufacturers use a vertical integration model: from epitaxy to packaging. In this industry, we have researched more than 40 IR LED suppliers, most of them from Asia. With the exception of high power and long/multi-wavelength IR LED products, the manufacturing process is well controlled and there are fewer remaining technical challenges.
The situation with EELs and VCSELs is quite different from that of IR LEDs, with most manufacturers coming from the US and Europe. The manufacturing process is also much more complex, and R&D and engineering skills are still required to improve device performance and capacity. Therefore, there are various types of participants in the industry chain: epi-houses, foundries, integrated component manufacturers (IDM), fabless companies, etc.
Infrared light source (LED, VCSEL, EEL) industry ecosystem (main manufacturers)
In this context, as EELs and VCSELs will be the main drivers of the infrared lighting market in the future, there are still great business opportunities for specialist players (mainly epitaxial, foundry and fabless companies). This is mainly related to “the manufacturing process still needs to be optimized”, but also to “the challenges of integrating infrared light sources into modules or systems”. In fact, EELs and VCSELs can be combined with complex optics, such as dot-matrix projectors for 3D face recognition.