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Laser headlights up for German innovation award

Teams from BMW and Osram nominated for â‚¬250,000 German Future Prize

BMW 7 Series headlight with laser light

Teams from BMW and Osram have been nominated for the German Future Prize 2016 for their project 'Laser light technology for the automobile - with safety and foresight into the future'.

The prize is given in acknowledgement of outstanding innovations in the areas of technology, engineering or natural science.

Together, BMW and Osram have developed a light source and a high beam laser technology for cars, which is already featured in the BMW i8 (since 2014) and the BMW 7 Series (since 2015).

The technology originated from the research laboratories at Osram Opto Semiconductors in Regensburg. 

Blue (450nm) laser diodes with sufficient power of at least one watt have only been available for a few years. They are based on InGaN technology and were originally developed for professional projector technologies. Blue light, however, would be unsuitable for use in vehicles, which need white light, preferably with a colour temperature of around 5500 Kelvin.

The solution developed by the teams of Carsten Setzer, head of the Automotive Lamps division at Osram, and Christian Amann, head of Light Systems at BMW involves pointing the laser light from several diodes onto a converter. With the help of a fluorescent substance this converts blue light into white - exactly as in modern light-emitting diodes.

The beam reaches about 600m and is substituting a regular LED low beam headlight which has a reach of about 300m. A special high-beam assistant makes sure that oncoming cars or cars driving ahead will be faded out of the beam so drivers won't be dazzled.

The other two candidates for the German Future Prize are an alternative to steel enforced concrete, and a coating making motors more efficient.

A jury will decide on the winning team on November 30th. It will receive the award (plus â‚¬250,000) from German President Joachim Gauck.

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