Infrared LEDs and Laser Diodes: Technology, Applications and Industry Trends
Solid-state light source promotes the development of new infrared lighting applications
According to Mamms Consulting, infrared light-emitting diodes (IR LEDs) and laser diodes (LDs) are not new technologies that were born in the 1960s. However, it has recently emerged rapidly with the development of solid-state lighting (SSL). Originally developed for optical communication applications, LEDs and LDs are now widely used in data communications/telecommunications, consumer electronics, automotive, and industrial applications to enable more high-value features.
Infrared sources are classified by wavelength
Various LED and LD products have found their own development path:
- IR LEDs initially focused on low-end applications such as photo interrupters, remote controls, etc., and are increasingly used in proximity sensing in smartphones, gesture recognition in automobiles, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality ( AR) Eye tracking in the device.
- The edge emitting laser (EEL) market has traditionally been driven by optical communication applications. The EEL market will continue to benefit as the amount of data exchanged with fiber optic networks continues to grow. However, in the future it is also possible to find growth drivers in new applications, such as Lidar.
- Vertical cavity surface emitting laser (VCSEL) was first used for short-range data communication, but Apple's iPhone X, released in 2017, integrates VCSEL-based 3D sensing, revolutionizing the commercialization of VCSELs. It makes it the fastest growing solid-state light source technology in the market, attracting a lot of money.
Main application development of VCSEL, EEL, IR LED
These infrared solid-state light sources have different semiconductor structures, and the epitaxy and semiconductor processes used are also different. They output at different wavelengths/powers and provide different illuminating profiles/shapes to form a variety of product specifications to meet the needs of different applications. With the growing interest in photonics in the automotive and consumer sectors, the future of infrared lighting applications is bright!
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 markets to thrive in the next five years!
Optical communication is one of the oldest applications of infrared light sources. Now, due to the explosive growth of Internet data and the emergence of Internet of Things (IoT), cloud services and autonomous vehicles, the infrared light source market will continue to be driven.
The industrial application of infrared light sources is also expected to generate high returns in the next few years, driven by additive applications. Traditional infrared sources, such as IR LEDs, are beginning to be replaced by VCSELs, which reduces power consumption.
3D sensing is becoming the “killer” application for infrared sources. VCSEL's 3D face recognition application in Apple iPhone X has aroused everyone's interest. Many Android (Android) mobile phone manufacturers have also followed Apple's new smart phone products with integrated VCSEL. However, 3D sensing technology can be used not only for face recognition of mobile phones, but also for automotive laser radar, which is a necessary technology for automatic driving! Therefore, the 3D sensing field has attracted many start-ups to enter and set off a wave of 3D visual revolution!
In summary, the infrared light source market is expected to reach $1.8 billion in 2018, and will reach $6.5 billion in 2023, with a compound annual growth rate of 29%.
Infrared light source market forecast
Infrared light source industry structure and maturity
Driven by visible light lighting applications, today's LED industry is quite mature. Almost all vendors use a vertically integrated model: from extension to packaging. In this industry, we have studied more than 40 IR LED suppliers, most of which are from Asia. In addition to high-power and long-wave/multi-wavelength IR LED products, the manufacturing process is well controlled and the remaining technical challenges are less.
The case of EEL and VCSEL is completely different from IR LEDs, most of which are from the US and Europe. Manufacturing processes are also much more complex, and research and engineering are still needed to improve equipment performance and productivity. Therefore, there are various types of participants in the industry chain: epi-houses, foundries, integrated component manufacturers (IDMs), fabless companies, and so on.