Next-generation thermal load sensors, or combo sensors, optimize climate control and lighting in "intelligent automobiles," thereby enhancing the comfort and safety of drivers and passengers. The sensors combine performance and quality with customized design to exceed the rigorous requirements of auto manufacturers. Several prominent auto manufacturers currently use these sensors in a variety of vehicles.

The combo sensor combines two photodiodes and a phototransistor. The photodiodes measure the intensity and direction of sunlight to adjust the climate control system. The photodiodes generate a small linear current flow based on the amount of sunlight shining on them. This current signal is converted into a voltage signal. The more light that shines on the photodiodes, the more voltage that is generated. This voltage signal is fed into the automobile climate control computer, which automatically adjusts the system. If there is more sunlight shinning on the passenger side of the automobile the climate control system will automatically send more cool air to that area. This feature reduces driver distractions by eliminating manual adjustments to the system.

The inconspicuous design of the Thermal Load Sensor combines two photodiodes and a phototransistor while preserving the cosmetic appearance of the instrument panel.

The phototransistor controls the interior and exterior lighting systems in order to make automatic adjustments at dawn and dusk. One of the exterior lighting systems, the headlights, is switched automatically from the half power daylight running function to full power nighttime illumination. The half power daylight running feature makes the vehicle more visible in daylight hours, which can reduce accidents. Both the phototransistor and photodiodes used in the combo sensor have other application uses in security, lighting controls, medical, and photography.

These thermal load sensors are inconspicuous in design, which preserves the cosmetic appearance of the instrument panel. In addition, the acceptance angle of the next generation thermal load sensor can be optimized for individual instrument panels.

This work was done by PerkinElmer Optoelectronics. For further information contact Kristen Schnittger at (510) 979-6604 or kristen. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Visit PerkinElmer online at