We recently had the great pleasure and privilege to talk with Dr. Joongkon Son, Samsung’s VP head of automotive LED sales and marketing. He has been in the LED industry for the last two decades’ time, devoting his efforts to enabling improvements within the lighting industry.
Most of Son’s work has been devoted to enabling improvements within the lighting industry. After his physics doctoral study in light and matter interactions on semiconductors from the State University of New York at Stony Brook in the U.S., he has spent 20 years at Samsung as an R&D researcher, process engineer, and product manager for Samsung’s LED business. His work has spanned basic research, product development, product planning, and sales.
Since 2018, he has been VP in charge of automotive LED sales and marketing activities.
Dr. Son likes the fast, dynamic changes in the LED market, especially in the automotive field, and he believes his company’s technological solutions are a critical means for Samsung’s many customers to realise their best innovations. His expertise and experience in the field, and his determination to provide the most innovative and reliable light sources, have propelled him to where he is today.
DVN: Could you briefly introduce Samsung Electronics and their main automotive products?
Joongkon Son: Samsung are a world-class leader in semiconductor technology. We view automobiles as an integrated body of high-tech electronic components that can be likened to “running semiconductors,” where the integration of convenience, safety and intelligence continues to rapidly progress. As such, we have played a key role in helping the automotive industry to acquire a stable base of smart driving products like next-generation infotainment systems, telematics, and advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS).
For example, Samsung are now mass-producing LED light sources for automotive lamps. We have been developing innovative automotive light sources for these lamps using advanced semiconductor manufacturing methodology. With a rising focus on ACES (autonomous, connected, electrical, shared) market trends, the vehicle lighting industry has begun developing highly efficient market solutions to complement this shift. To further advance the movement, Samsung have been making meaningful strides in introducing light sources that can be optimised to produce a safer and more comfortable experience on the road for autonomous driving and for electric vehicles.
DVN: What can you tell us about Samsung’s new PixCell LED technology?
Joongkon Son: The PixCell LED is a first-of-its-kind intelligent headlamp solution that’s able to deliver tremendous quality and reliability for the rapidly evolving mobility market. It’s well suited for ADB.One of the key performance indicators for an ADB light source is its level of precision, which is where our PixCell LED’s technology truly surpasses any of its peers. The PixCell LED contains dozens of individual segments, perfectly aligned and expertly mounted in a matrix structure. Each segment is separated by a silicon wall that minimises optical interference. As a result, the PixCell LED can generate an extraordinary 300:1 contrast ratio—triple the precision level of conventional products, enabling incredible visibility on the road. On top of this contrast and clarity, each piece can engage independently in distinguishing which areas of the road need to be illuminated or kept dark, and meticulously controls an ADB’s light distribution.
The development and production of the PixCell LED’s unique capabilities is largely due to the strong foundation that has been set for many years through the proliferation of Samsung’s industry-leading semiconductor manufacturing expertise. While most traditional GaN LEDs are epitaxially grown on sapphire wafers due to a reduced amount of lattice mismatch between the GaN and sapphire, the PixCell LED adapts GaN-on-silicon technology with its lowered dislocation densities.
Samsung are one of the frontrunners of applying GaN-on-silicon technology in the automotive industry which is a key substrate for Samsung’s semiconductor success. In 2009, Samsung began adapting silicon technology for memory semiconductor solutions to LED products such as flashlights, and we’ve achieved an unmatched level of expertise in LED applications. As a result, our PixCell LED provides the industry’s highest contrast ratio.
DVN: What else makes PixCell LED special?
Joongkon Son : I’m glad you asked that. In addition to its high contrast and premium light quality, the PixCell LED has another unique feature: a super-compact light emitting surface that gives multiple benefits.
As mentioned earlier, the PixCell LED is a matrix of multiple individual segments. These are separated by 25-micrometre silicon walls. This distinctive formation makes its light-emitting surface (LES) one-sixteenth the size of comparative LEDs. Correspondingly, its minimised surface reduces the size of other optical components like circuit boards and heat sinks. Moreover, the smaller LES creates light that is straighter and extraordinarily targeted, thereby eliminating the need for a primary lens, and simplifying the optic system. All of this reduces the overall lamp size by 40 to 50 per cent.
Smaller lamps enable the design freedom that most automakers need to establish unique brand identities and more future-oriented designs, given the mass popularisation of electric vehicles and the astounding evolution of mobility.
In regard to energy efficiency, smaller components can also contribute a great deal. In the case of electric vehicles, as I said before, minimising battery consumption and boosting battery performance is a key concern. By lightening the overall weight of an electric vehicle, you can lower the amount of energy required to operate it. In so doing, automobile manufacturers must reduce the weight of as many parts as possible—including headlamps.
DVN: Has PixCell LED been released into the market?
Joongkon Son: Yes, Samsung has been shipping PixCell LEDs to the industry since 2020.
DVN: What are Samsung’s advantages in working with the automotive lighting industry?
Joongkon Son: Samsung have been a leader in the overall LED industry by producing lighting solutions of the highest quality and with the highest light efficacy. Most noteworthy, we have engineered technologies that adjust the invisible spectrum of light and pioneered innovative products in the horticulture and human-centric lighting markets. Now, we are in the process of delivering cutting-edge innovation for the automotive sector.
Using Samsung’s state-of-the-art semiconductor technology, we intend to produce creative solutions that will advance the evolution of mobility around the world. We will continue to gain deeper insight into the market and our customers’ needs, while embracing all of the truly expansive possibilities for LED lighting in the future of automobiles.
DVN: Do you plan to develop lighting solutions tailored for both the premium and general automobile markets?
Joongkon Son: Our relationship with automobiles is transforming cars from simply being a means of transportation to serving as a lifestyle space, or even an everyday companion. As a result, the role of vehicle lighting is becoming increasingly important as this transformation impacts most, if not all, automakers.
We aim to contribute new value to the movement. We believe the industry is moving towards smarter, slimmer, and more eco-friendly solutions, and are developing products that meet these needs, especially for the autonomous driving and green mobility markets.
We have created a lineup of high-efficiency headlamp solutions with which to achieve stellar results, as well as in simplifying headlamp optical systems. All in all, our automotive LED lineup allows manufacturers to build slimmer lamps while enabling substantial design freedom.
Additionally, Samsung have a wide range of cost-competitive LEDs for various car segments. This lineup can spread the adoption rate of LEDs for automobile lamps to all market segments including standard discrete LED lamps. We believe it can increase the accessibility of electric and other green vehicles by lowering their production costs. From premium to entry-level models, we will continue to provide customised solutions that can meet the diverse demands of the automotive market.
DVN: How do you envision the future for Samsung’s automotive LED technology?
Joongkon Son: Vehicle lighting, like all auto parts, will continue trending towards becoming smarter, smaller, and more efficient to support safer and more comfortable driving. These advancements will also likely go hand-in-hand with becoming more environmentally sustainable. For our PixCell LED, this could mean that future models will be sophisticated enough to not only engage or disengage as headlamps, but also utilize light pixels to visually display information in better ways.
Another trend we foresee is LED lighting playing a very significant role in autonomous cars. Once autonomous driving becomes more pervasive, we expect that there will be a larger focus on interior lighting and how it can enhance a driver’s experience inside the car. Samsung’s advanced spectrum engineering technology is currently designed for horticulture and human-centric lighting, but we believe that it will play a larger part in the field of automotive lighting in the future. I’m really looking forward to seeing how our spectrum engineering technology can help drivers stay more alert or provide them with a sense of relaxation while en route.
DVN:Environmental protection is becoming a critical issue for most businesses today. What efforts are Samsung making to support a more sustainable future?
Joongkon Son: One of the biggest advantages of LED lighting is that the product itself is highly sustainable. LEDs’ absence of mercury, and their long lifespan and low energy consumption, are all factors that make them the most sustainable lighting solution.
As an LED component manufacturer, Samsung are always looking for ways to protect the environment, while providing the industry with the highest quality solutions. Between 2019 and 2020, we optimised several large-scale manufacturing processes from an environmental perspective, and set targets to drastically reduce energy consumption in major production lines. In doing so, we have been able to halve our CO2 emissions.
It goes without saying that technology must serve to improve our standard of living in a way that creates a better world, while protecting the environment. Lighting is no exception. The benefits of LED lighting should extend beyond safety and convenience to also reinforce the path towards a sustainable future.
All of us in the Samsung Electronics LED Business will continue to pursue the limitless possibilities of LEDs in a way that addresses the market’s evolving needs and promotes a more environmentally-friendly tomorrow.