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Optoelectronics find new apps

Posted: 01 Aug 2007     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:optoelectronics  optical semiconductor  India  light sensor  image sensor 

iSuppli Corp. Director and Principal Analyst Jagdish Rebello estimated the total market for optical semiconductors in India at about Rs.81.62 crore ($20 million) in 2006, with demand being primarily driven by the industrial, consumer and communications segments.

Jagdish Rebello
Rebello: "The two-way trend in manufacturing—domestic and exports—will propel the growth of opto-semiconductor sales in India."
According to him, the major opto-semiconductor offerings in India are image sensors, laser diodes, optocouplers and opto-interrupters. The top products using such parts sold in India include colour televisions, electronic energy meters, uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) and inverters, wireline switches, camera phones, cable television equipment and computer monitors.

Gartner Principal Analyst Ganesh Ramamoorthy agreed and added that the major product categories include LED lamps/displays, couplers, image sensors, laser diodes, photosensors, etc. with demand mainly coming from mobile phones and CD/DVD player production growth. Ramamoorthy said demand will continue to be mostly driven by consumer electronic applications, though some demand may also come from industrial electronics production.

Ramamoorthy estimated the market at about Rs.408.11 crore ($100 million) in terms of consumption of local production of optoelectronics-based products [end equipment]. He forecast that market to grow to about Rs.1,265.13 crore ($310 million) by 2011. Consumption of optoelectronics-based products, such as camera phones, PDAs, digital cameras, LCD TVs etc., are likely to grow by over 20 per cent CAGR through 2011.

The growth of the electronic energy meter market is a prime driver for the opto-semiconductor market, said Rebello. With the Indian government heavily stressing power sector reforms, a revamp of the electricity distribution systems is underway. Because energy meters account for about half of the demand for opto-semiconductors in India, growth in energy meters segment bodes well for the opto-semiconductors demand in India.

Heinz Nather
Nather: "Silicon based ambient light sensors are rapidly replacing cadmium sulfide photo resistors."
Another industrial segment is that for lighting. Driven by environmental legislation like the EU's Reduction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS), silicon based ambient light sensors are rapidly replacing cadmium sulfide (CdS) photo resistors, according to Heinz Nather, senior VP, Optoelectronics, Vishay Intertechnology Inc.

To reduce power consumption, most city streetlights and many home exterior lights feature an ambient light sensor to automatically turn on at dusk and off at dawn, Nather said. The key performance characteristics include sensing only wavelengths between 380nm and 780nm, linear response to an illuminance from 1 lux to 100 klux, and lot-to-lot response repeatability. Migrating from a CdS resistor to an ambient light sensor is simple, according to Nather, and in most cases it requires only a change in a resistor.

Nather added that automotive manufacturers are also adopting ambient light sensors in body electronics applications. "The first application, automatically turning on and off headlights based on ambient light conditions, came decades ago," he said. He sees ambient light sensors being used to adjust the backlight intensity of instrument panels and LCD backlights found in navigation (GPS), climate control, and DVD screens—just like in consumer applications. Ambient light sensors are also used to turn on and off and adjust the speed of windshield wipers by detecting the presence of rain on the windshield and, integrated with thermistors, they are even being used to detect the angle of the sun and cabin temperature to aid in climate control.

In consumer electronics applications, ambient light sensors are now found in hundreds of different consumer products. Battery operated products are adopting the feature to reduce power consumption, said Nather. "For example, Apple's iPhone and all their notebook PCs feature an ambient light sensor that controls the LCD backlight intensity," he said. "In a dark room, the LCD does not need to be bright. The output signal of an ambient light sensor will be used to reduce power to the backlight. Similarly, Motorola's Razr mobile phone features an ambient light sensor that controls the keypad backlight. If it is bright enough to see the keys, the backlight can remain off, again, preserving battery power."

Nather predicts that as consumers move from CRT to LCD TVs and monitors, many monitors being introduced in 2008 will feature an ambient light sensor to optimally adjust the brightness based on the ambient light.

"Consumer electronics equipment, primarily colour televisions, consumer durables, and data processing—i.e. computer monitors—are the next major user-segment for opto-semiconductors," added Rebello. Televisions and monitor manufacturing in India is significant and growing. India also exports these products in significant volumes. Rebello said this two-way trend in manufacturing—domestic and exports—will propel the growth of opto-semiconductor sales in India.

And then there's the communications segment. Equipment like wireline switches, Digital Loop Carriers (DLCs), Electronic Private Branch Exchanges (EPABXs), etc. all use optoelectronic semiconductor components. Rebello sees a trend towards camera-phone manufacturing in India that will spur the growth of image sensor sales in the country, although the current market is very small.

"In terms of market scope, laser diodes and image sensors address a small number of applications compared to other opto-semiconductors," he said. "The end-products using these devices—cameras, digital cameras, photocopiers and Point of Sale (POS) terminals—are mainly imported, hence the low demand in India."

- By Vivek Nanda
  EE Times India

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