With a growth rate exceeding 58% annually for the past five years, the worldwide market for high-brightness light-emitting diodes (LEDs) reached $1.2 billion in 2000, and accounted for 42% of the total LED market. According to a recent report entitled High-Brightness LED Market Review and Forecast 2001, from market research firm Strategies Unlimited (Mountain View, CA), robust growth should continue for the next five years, with the market expected to exceed $3.4 billion in 2005.
The high-brightness LED market is served by a number of large established suppliers as well as several smaller emerging ones. Dominating the market for blue, green, and white LEDs based on indium gallium nitride (InGaN) are Nichia Corporation, Toyoda Gosei, Cree, and Osram Opto Semiconductors. The major suppliers of yellow, orange, and red LEDs based on indium gallium aluminum phosphide (InGaAlP) are Agilent Technologies and LumiLeds Lighting (Agilent's joint venture partner with Philips Lighting), Osram Opto Semiconductors, Toshiba, and Taiwanese chip suppliers UEC and Epistar. Other major players on the world market include Stanley Electric, Matsushita Electric, Sharp and Citizen Electronics. The emergence of newer suppliers such as AXT and Uniroyal Optoelectronics, as well as a number of Taiwanese startups, will make the competitive picture even more interesting in years to come.
Although high-brightness LEDs are penetrating all market sectors, several applications stand out as being truly enabled by the availability of this technology. For example, large, full-color outdoor LED signs became possible only in the mid-1990s as high-brightness LEDs became available in all three primary colors--red, green, and blue. Such signs can easily accept full video frame rates. High-brightness LEDs in center high-mounted stop lamps (CHMSLs) for cars have also made significant inroads in the U.S., Europe, and Japan, to the extent that 32% of all cars and light trucks worldwide came equipped with LED CHMSLs in 2000. Beginning in 1997, a significant fraction of European cars began using blue, green, white, and amber high-brightness LEDs for instrument panel illumination, and today over 50% of European-made cars (for example, VW, Audi, BMW and Mercedes) are so equipped.
Also experiencing dramatic market growth in recent years are LED traffic signals. The use of more-expensive LEDs to replace incandescent lamps in traffic signals is based on the high reliability of the LEDs, as well as the fact that they use 80% less electricity than filtered incandescent lamps. For example, the current energy crisis in California has induced the Department of Transportation (Caltrans) to retrofit the more than 200,000 signals it controls with LEDs.
In the past two years, the use of high-brightness LEDs to backlight small LCD displays, particularly for mobile phones, has made a major contribution to the market. Both single-color backlighting (e.g. blue, green, amber, red) of monchrome displays and white backlighting of full-color displays have grown rapidly in Asia, and their use is spreading to Europe and North America.
According to Strategies Unlimited, one of the biggest potential markets for high-brightness LEDs is general illumination. Although it will be some time before these LEDs are available at the price and performance levels required for large-scale penetration of this market, several specialty illumination markets are already being addressed. Moreover, several joint ventures have been formed between LED suppliers and the world's largest lighting suppliers to address the illumination market. Examples include LumiLeds Lighting (Philips Lighting and Agilent); GELcore (GE Lighting and Emcore); and Osram Opto Semiconductors (Osram and Infineon). Current niche lighting applications include machine vision, architectural and theme lighting, retail lighting, and contour lighting. These applications accounted for just 3% of the high-brightness LED market in 2000, but will pave the way for the larger illumination applications to follow.
For more information on the high-brightness LED market report, contact Strategies Unlimited at 650-91-3438, fax 650-941-5120, e-mail: [email protected]. Or check www.strategies-u.com.