Power Electronics

LEDs Offer Rare Ray of Hope During Electronics Downturn

Aided by rising demand from LCD-TV makers, the Light-Emitting diode (LED) market is expected to expand in 2009, providing a rare growth opportunity amid sharp revenue declines in most other electronics component categories, according to iSuppli Corp.

LEDs are expected to enjoy a revenue increase of 2.9 percent in 2009, following 10.8 percent growth in 2008. In contrast, the overall semiconductor market is set to decline by 9.4 percent in 2009. "LEDs are forecast for growth this year-a highly unusual item in our semiconductor forecast, given that almost all other components will suffer revenue contractions in 2009," said Dale Ford, senior vice president, market intelligence services, for iSuppli.

"Of the 12 major semiconductor categories tracked by iSuppli in its Application Market Forecast Tool (AMFT), nine are expected to suffer revenue declines in 2009-ranging from memory chips, to logic Integrated Circuits (ICs), to power transistors. Although a 2.9 percent increase is only a moderate rise by the standards of the semiconductor industry, any revenue growth at all this year will be a remarkable accomplishment."

The LCD-TV market in 2009 will consume $163 million worth of LEDs, up 221.9 percent from $51 million in 2008, according to iSuppli. By 2012, LCD-TV LED revenue will grow to $1.4 billion, a nearly nine-times expansion from 2009.

LEDs are used in LCD TVs to illuminate the display. LCDs are a transmissive display type, meaning they do not generate their own light and therefore need a separate illumination source, known as a backlight. Most LCD displays traditionally have used Cold-Cathode Fluorescent Lamps (CCFLs) as the backlight. However, the declining prices of LEDs are making them a viable competitor to CCFLs. While the overall mood of television makers at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas this month trended toward gloom and doom, there was some optimism regarding the use of LED backlighting in new LCD-TVs.

"One positive message was issued by LCD-TV makers at CES: LED backlighting and thinner form factors represent the future of the market," said Riddhi Patel, principal analyst, television, for iSuppli. "These two things go hand in hand, with edge-mounted LED-backlight systems enabling thinner sets, which are more attractive to consumers."

LED-backlit LCD TVs also consume less electricity than their CCFL-equipped counterparts. "A majority of LED backlit LCD TVs comply with Energy Star requirements," Patel observed. "This is an attractive feature for consumers, who have come to view the Energy Star label as a guarantee of greenness and reduced energy costs."
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