Efficiency in lighting needs intelligent controls, expert says

May 23, 2012 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
With lighting applications increasingly being assessed under the power efficiency aspect, semiconductor vendors enter the lighting business - at least indirectly, as providers for the electronics parts required for the power supply circuitry. But higher efficiency also requires intelligent products. Infineon sees many ways to get provide technologies to drive efficiency in lighting.

Chipmaker Infineon has bundled its lighting-related activities in its PMM (Power Management and Multimarket) division. Excluded are products associated to lighting applications for cars - they are handled in the company's Automotive division. With respect to lighting applications, the company addresses a broad range of applications, explained Christian Burrer, Senior Director for Infineon's Lighting product segment. The application spectrum includes smart fluorescent ballast controllers, DC/DC LED drivers and AC/DC offline LED drivers as well as power transistors - for lighting applications, the company positions its CoolMOS N-channel MOSFETS as the switching transistor technology of choice. The reason: "Their On-state resistance is particularly low", says Burrer.

Smart control options are also increasingly part of lighting applications. Several standards and control technologies are used in the field, such as DALI (Digital Addressable Lighting Interface). In this application segment Infineon is also active, offering its XC82x and XC83x low pin-count microcontrollers. Based on the widespread 8051 architecture, they feature PWM outputs, enabling them to dim LED strings.

Smart lighting controls is a widely ramified topic with many different technologies involved. "As a topic, smart lighting will become a part of building management", Burrer predicts. "Today, lighting is dumb. With intelligent applications such as ambient light sensing or presence detection, the overall efficiency of lighting systems can be improved significantly," he said. The expert sees several possible directions for future developments: One option would be to equip lighting systems with local intelligence; another one would be to integrate lighting control into building control systems.

There is another trend in the development of lighting systems: Color temperature and brightness can be controlled or programmed, enabling users to create different scenarios. This feature could be interesting for applications in hospitals, hotels, schools and many other locations. "We see such implementations exclusively in connection with LED-based lighting concepts", said Burrer. "With LEDs it is much easier to implement than with other technologies".

The technological development potential is