Audi lighting the way forward

  • 23-Jan-2012 03:12 EST

Motor racing lighting technologies are potentially cross-linking to production applications. This is the Audi R18 TSI.

Although motorsport technology has only a small direct influence on production vehicles, lighting used on race cars is an area that Audi sees as very useful for testing advances for road applications.

An example is the LED lighting used by the Audi R18 TDI that won at Le Mans in 2011. The power of each greater than 100-W headlight exceeds 1000 lux to give an effective range well in excess of 1 km (0.6 mi). Considerable heat is generated, and cooling is via natural airflow and tiny 1-cm² (0.16-in²) graphite foam cooling elements. Carbon fiber is a significant material used for the headlights, with each weighing around 2 kg (4.4 lb).

The lights are far more powerful than those for production cars, but some of the technology used by, or associated with, the racecar systems is set to cross-link with them. These include Matrix Beam, which divides the LED light into several sources, with small, individual diodes backed by lenses or reflectors, obviating the need for a swiveling mechanism. Information for their operation is provided by satellite navigation, a camera, and other sensors. Technical challenges include airflow control through the headlights and manufacturing accuracy.

OLEDs (organic light-emitting diodes) which use what Audi terms “an organic material” instead of semiconductor crystals are also under development. They can be used in vehicle interiors or in taillights/rear lighting but may require some thermal management, although they can withstand temperatures up to 80°C (176°F).

Audi states that it can use OLEDs to create a “shoal” of light effect. This illuminates a surface of fluctuating light that can move “like a shoal of fish” to the right or left, indicating a turn.

Another research area for lighting is MID (molded interconnected devices). The technology incorporates “an innovative plastic material that contains an organic metal complex.” The required shape is achieved via injection molding, and a laser then inscribes an electrical circuit onto the component. The top polymer layer is vaporized, and the metalized core, which metals can adhere to, is exposed. Circuit paths are achieved via a galvanizing process to supply LED current.

Using its experience with MID, Audi has created a 15-cm (5.9-in) diameter illuminated sphere, comprising two half shells with several apertures and 52 integrated LEDs, which is said to offer exceptional design freedom.

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