Laser diodes are lighting's future, says Nobel Prize winner Nakamura

In the next five years we can expect laser diodes to appear in lighting products, making them even more efficient than lighting based on traditional LED technology.

That’s according to Shuji Nakamura, who recently won the Nobel Prize in physics for his invention of blue LED. When asked by Lux Review what he hopes to achieve over the next half decade, the Nobel laureate and co-founder of GaN-on-GaN-based lighting manufacturer Soraa pointed to laser diodes as the next potential technological breakthrough.

‘It’s a great opportunity for the next lighting [products],' he said.

'Laser lighting is already used for automobile headlamps at BMW and Audi, because the laser diode’s efficiency is ten times higher than that of the LED headlamp. The radiation distance of a laser diode headlamp is almost 700 metres, whereas LED headlamp is only 300 metres, and current automobile headlamps are only 100 metres.’ 

There are already a couple of laser diode-equipped cars in existence. The BMW i8, which launched this summer, is the first car to use laser headlights developed by Osram. A special edition Audi R8 LMX has also been created. The laser diodes are so small that they can be worked into the structure, opening up new possibilities for car design.

But Nakamura hastened to add that there is still some way to go before laser diode technology will reach its full potential. ‘We can make highly efficient lighting in the near future, but we still have to work very hard to make the laser diodes highly efficient. I think this will be a huge opportunity in the future,’ he said.


Photo by Russell Abraham for Soraa

Comments 2

I think you must have misquoted Mr. Nakamura with "the laser diode’s efficiency is ten times higher than that of the LED headlamp". Current LED products are now around 100 lumens/W for a radiometric efficiency about 30%. The best LEDs in Cree labs are over 200 lm/W and 60% efficiency, and the theoretical limit is around 350 lm/W for white light. 10x efficiency is physically impossible. Laser diodes may give an _output_ 10x higher (brighter), but they are generally lower efficiency then LEDs at present.

Dear Author of the article, I have the impression you mixed something up. Laser lighting for cars - yes, this will go, but for homes, offices, schools, etc.. I think that was not in the scope of Mr. Nakamura. This needs a brief explanation to follow such thoughts.

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