LED backlight set for strong market growth

LEDs light sources, driver ICs and ambient light sensors will all be in demand as new backlighting applications emerge.

IMS Research forecasts that the market for semiconductors in backlighting applications will grow to around $4.5 billion by 2012. New backlighting applications such as LCD TVs and PC notebooks will drive the market for LEDs in backlighting, together with the associated LED driver ICs and ambient light sensors.

The majority of small displays used in applications such as portable media players, digital cameras and cellular terminals have used LED backlighting technology for some time, but now the technology is also being adopted in medium and large sized screens, for applications such as PC notebooks and LCD TVs.

LED-backlit PC notebooks started being shipped in volume in the fourth quarter of 2006. As the cost of LED backlight units continues to fall, LED backlit LCD TVs are now entering the market.

In related news this week, DELL customers have experienced shipment delays for laptops, which the company has attributed in part to shortage in supply of LED backlit liquid-crystal displays – see news item on CNN Money.

Applications with smaller displays are still showing growth. However, as LED technology advances, LEDs become brighter, and light guides more efficient, it is expected that fewer LEDs will be required. The adoption of LEDs for backlighting large displays is therefore becoming increasingly more important.

Increased adoption of LED backlighting for large screens does however affect the CCFL backlighting market which is expected to stall in growth. However CCFL manufacturers will doubtless answer back with improved products, continuing price pressure and collaborative innovations such as hybrid backlighting, which incorporates both technologies.

Driven primarily by portable applications, ambient light sensors are now also becoming a driving force for growth. Used to adjust the brightness of the backlight automatically, to suit the surrounding light conditions, they help reduce power consumption. For applications such as cellular handsets, (the displays can eat up to 30% of the battery), and LED backlit PC notebooks, ambient light sensors can considerably extend the use time.

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