invented 100 years ago… but in cars for 15 years

Thanks to light-emitting diodes, the imagination is in charge. It has become very easy to design a new look for a vehicle; a technology that was mainly used for the taillights and indicators because of their ultra-fast ignition (between 2 and 15 milliseconds).

A led looks like a mini bulb. But, compared to a conventional light bulb, the radiation does not come from the heat of an electric current, but from the semiconductors that make it up.


In 2007, the Audi R8 is the first vehicle with LED headlights when it was presented in 2007. Photo Audi

Advantages for the diode

One of the advantages of the light emitting diode is its low power consumption; 80% of the electrical energy used for a led becomes light, compared to 20% for a conventional lamp.

And the service life is equivalent to that of the vehicle. The only disadvantage lies in the lack of power which requires multiplying the number of LEDs in a headlight to reach or exceed the light intensity produced by an incandescent bulb.

A problem which becomes a signature as for Audi which integrates 25 LEDs per headlight to distinguish itself from competitors.

Led technology gives an easily identifiable look to the car;  an optical signature.  Photo DR

Led technology gives an easily identifiable look to the car; an optical signature. Photo DR

advances in physics

Before a trio of researchers were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2014 for their work on a high-power blue diode, already in 1907, Henry Round was the first to highlight the phenomenon of electroluminescence. .

Twenty years later, the Russian Oleg Lossev files the first patent for what will be called, much later, the LED. It was not until 1962 that Nick Holonyak Jr. invented the first usable visible spectrum LED.

It will remain for a long time confined to the field of pilot lights, before in 1995, we can draw a white light from it.

It only took 40 years to go from a single color indicator lamp to an LED headlight that emits white light.  Everything comes from the invention of the blue LED in the early 90s. Photo DR

It only took 40 years to go from a single color indicator lamp to an LED headlight that emits white light. Everything comes from the invention of the blue LED in the early 90s. Photo DR

The Led soon to be threatened

To arrive at the white light used by the headlights of vehicles, it took a long time to work; depending on the composition of the semiconductor, the light is green, red or blue.

Just combine the 3 colors to get white. Easy on paper, but it took a very long time to get it done. A technology soon to be obsolete?

Audi and BMW unveiled their new weapon, notably for the i8, BMW’s electric supercar; the laser beacon, 1,000 times brighter and with a range of up to 600 meters.

Leave a Comment