BMW Laser Headlights Slice Through the Dark IEEE Spectrum

27 Мар 2014 | Author: | Комментарии к записи BMW Laser Headlights Slice Through the Dark IEEE Spectrum отключены
BMW i8 � Electric Car 270kW Auto

Lasers are more efficient and a more natural white

Photo-illustration: Smalldog Imageworks Its are brighterand whiter.

I am standing in a underground lab looking at the most car headlight in the world. Its source, a diode, is 1000 times as as an LED but uses just two-thirds the

I had to surrender my passport to see it, for I’m at highly secure, steel-and-glass mecca, the FIZ (for Forschungs- und or Research and Innovation Center), an complex in Munich replete workshops, clay modelers’ and a vast wind tunnel.

basking in the glow of three of brightest lights: project Volker Levering, whose inspirationa mental lightbulb, if you on during a 2010 Christmas ski in the Alps; Stefan Weber, the program leader; and Helmut also among the technology’s

“A person may not be directly but you can instantly feel the difference good and bad light,” says as he switches on a wall of fluorescent I certainly feel the difference: The simulate a sunny day above right up to the 6500-kelvin color that photographers consider daylight.

Photo: BMW Blue-laser Blue-laser light from a diode proceeds through a which converts some of it a wavelength in the yellow part of the The resulting mix is a white beam can be focused very tightly an elliptical image, below), though it’s not a laser.


These engineers want than mere intensity: want a focused, high-contrast light that mimics of the sun. BMW’s system deliver about 5500 to Kthe highest color that international regulations allow. That level is closer than today’s to the cool, blue end of the scale, helps drivers pick out and eases eye fatigue.

Until the dawn of semiconductor the whitest brights any headlights manage were high-intensity (HID, also known as lamps, which BMW introduced on the 7 Series coupe. HID lightstill an upgrade on many 2014 between 2800 and 3500 and above 4000 K, but it’s yellower, and less energy than either LED or laser

The incandescent bulb invented by Edison in 1879 has shown staying power, not least in The first LED headlights shone a car a mere six years ago, Lexus introduced them on its LS L sedan. Soon, the technological may pass to lasers.

Laser will debut in Europe in the BMW i8, a plug-in hybrid sports car promises 2.45 liters per 100 (about 94 miles per gallon) and a surge from 0 to 100 kilometers per (or 0 to 60 miles per hour in 4.3 seconds).

The of the LED headlight may be ending even it gets properly under says Shuji Nakamura. He know: Nakamura invented the blue laser and the blue which made possible the world of powerful white lights. And his Silicon Valley Soraa, is developing laser to complement its LED lighting technologies.

laser, we believe, is the next of lighting, even for general such as homes, businesses, and a of displays, Nakamura says.

engineers lead the way to the Nachtfahr . or simulator. A cutaway interior of a sedan, with instrument seats, and steering wheel, a darkened simulator screen.

On a workbench rests the culmination of 2.5-year project: a pair of light prototypes, looking the lethal toys of a James villain. Erdl demonstrates power, dangling an incense into the barely visible The stick immediately begins filling the lab with a cathedral’s

But have no fear: The lasers be safely contained, with no of bouncing their fierce off unfortunate retinas, even in the of a collision. That’s because the BMW turn the intense blue into a tightly concentrated but therefore eye-friendlycone of white

The production version will up to four Class 4 blue-laser Collimating lenses will their beams onto a plate that will the laser beams to white which will bounce off optics and reflect onto the To show me how it works, here in the simulator lab, Erdl a phosphorus wafer into a laser beam. The wafer some laser photons and others stream through. the blocked photons, some “pump”the phosphorus atoms to yellow light.

The mix of blue streaming through and yellow from within produces white light. It’s the technique used, at lower in most white-light-emitting LEDs.

LEDs can approach that white-light nirvana. And for flooding an with diffuse white LEDs are great, Nakamura

But he and other experts agree lasers are much better and efficient at precisely directing onto a distant spot. exactly what’s required in lighting (and also in theater projectors. which soon incorporate laser-based systems).

“Wherever you want flexible applications of light, the is moving like a freight in the laser’s direction,” says Rudy, general manager of the division of Soraa. “It’s the best way to direct light a complex optical system.”

The are clear. At just 10 square the laser’s active light-emitting is 1/10 000th the size of a LED. That makes it easier for the laser to focus and light exactly where needed.

The tiny chip with its vastly higher density, makes it easy to dazzling light without relatively bulky LEDs. And the is already tightly focused and so the tiny movements of the chip can be into the large motions of the With an LED, on the other “the light tends to fan out everywhere, and it’s very to focus it optically,” Rudy

“With a laser, you combine the benefits of a lamp with the long life, and efficiency of an he adds. That estimated by the way, is 30 000 hours. The lamps easily outlive the automobile.

nitride lasers set up a resonant wave not along their as do classic lasers, but crosswise, so the light comes out from the The compound semiconductor, perfected by Nakamura, has a large enough to produce the energetic waves in the spectrum.

Lasers also LEDs where it matters efficiency. It’s true LEDs are more efficient at electricity into light, laser efficiency is rapidly up. But for overall system efficiency, no contest: LEDs are nowhere as good at getting the light to you want it to go.

That intense for example, can be beamed into a strand and lose only 10 to 20 of its initial energy, as opposed to an LED could loseup to 90 percent, say. A pair of the old halogen drew about 120 watts a car’s battery; a couple of best LED headlights draw 40 W. Laser light’s usage is to drop below 30 W.

The rise of the can be traced back to Nakamura whose first blue hit the market in 2005. Low-power were driving Blu-ray and PlayStations, with higher-power reserved for uses such as welding. Engineers kept up the power output in shorter-wavelength, gallium nitride chips, 1-W blue lasers became

It was a development ripe for new applications.

display makers took a from LED development, realizing could also pump the blue lasers into a to create brilliant light. The was laser-based “lamp-free” displays, are now being used in office, and home-theater projectors. Rudy semiconductor lighting a classic of a maturing industry, with development on a steep upward and costs falling rapidly.

confluence of adjacent fields brought laser to the forefront,” he “And auto lighting is one example of the application.” Because blue-laser diodes measure 10 micrometers, about one-tenth the of rival LEDs, you can put them in an automobile and transmit their light via fiber optics. frees designers to create new headlight formsor “eyes heighten cars’ personalities and to save space and redistribute

BMW i8 � Electric Car 270kW Auto

The field is blowing open, and Nakamura say. Beyond projectors, and displays, expect to see in cellphone “pico” projector and future head-mounted systems, as those now used in Google Lasers may even end up lighting our offices, stadiumsyou name it.

For lighting, what makes the attractive is that they can be much more densely on a than LEDs can. lights would not only be energy efficient on a dollars-per-lumen but also more flexible, to work as spotlights or floodlights at the of a switch. If costs continue to Rudy says, laser could make the leap to use in roughly 10 years.

BMW intends to the laser-based system on its 2014 i8 hybrid sports car. As any plug-in vehicle, the i8 has a particular to conserve battery electricity for as well as for steering assist, and heating and cooling. Finding savings everywhereeven on the order of wattstranslates directly into miles of driving range.

Unlike slow-starting, single-brightness the laser lights switch on in and instantly go to 100 percent illumination. to package in motorized modules, lasers “offer huge for today’s projection systems,” says.

Those innovations BMW’s new Dynamic Light a pair of bumper-mounted spotlights are separate from the headlights. The are linked to thermal-imaging cameras and a driver display that illuminates large animals and far beyond headlight range. And BMW and luxury brands are now introducing that direct a “cone of toward oncoming cars, drivers to keep bright on to maintain peak visibility sidebar, “Deer-Spotting Diodes

The cars of the future, BMW engineers will automatically adapt to environments by switching among of lighting programs, if not more. light, Levering says, dovetail nicely with developments.

A few hurdles remain. In months, BMW’s team still downsize the system and durability outside the lab. As LEDs, system cooling is a Directing airflow over the is an obvious approach, supplemented by fans or conductive materials.

BMW is trekking to Death Valley, and other locations to test in extremis.

Farsighted and efficient headlights are able to reach the range of LEDs (and technologies, such as incandescent because they’re intrinsically and, more important, can be directed to their targets remarkable efficiency.

The preproduction i8 four laser lights its stretched hood, but the showroom will use the laser system for the beams only. The i8’s LEDs will emit 50 per square millimeter at their compared with 580 cd/mm2 for the high beams. That visibility as far as regulations allow.

The States sets a lower on total overall light than Europe does, but generally design systems can easily be tweaked to pass internationally.

As a further safety measure, the high beams will only above roughly 40 to preclude the possibility of someone’s into a static light. will monitor the high-power lasers, switching them off if fail during a collision or just as the result of wear and And the system automatically switches to low when oncoming cars are as with current adaptive

My laser-guided tour of the FIZ complete, I to BMW World, a dramatically billowing nestled among the BMW headquarters, one of its and a tentlike swimming stadium for the 1972 Olympics. There, of car lovers ogle the i8 and its concept snapping photos like oohing and ahhing over all the goodness.

It’s all great But if and when you see your first BMW i8, do Erdl, Levering, and Weber a Spare a little love for headlights.

This article appeared in print as “Whiter With Lasers.”

About the

Lawrence Ulrich covers the world from his base in N.Y.

BMW i8 � Electric Car 270kW Auto
BMW i8 � Electric Car 270kW Auto
BMW i8 � Electric Car 270kW Auto
BMW i8 � Electric Car 270kW Auto
BMW i8 � Electric Car 270kW Auto
BMW i8 � Electric Car 270kW Auto
BMW i8 � Electric Car 270kW Auto
BMW i8 � Electric Car 270kW Auto
BMW i8 � Electric Car 270kW Auto
BMW i8 � Electric Car 270kW Auto

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