Investigating antennas as ignition aid for automotive HID lamps

Andre Bergner, Max Engelhardt, Stefan Bienholz, Cornelia Ruhrmann, Thomas Höbing, Sven Gröger, Jürgen Mentel, Peter Awakowicz


This paper considers the ignition of mercury-free high-intensity discharge (HID) lamps for car headlights. Due to safety reasons, these lamps need to have a fast run-up phase which is ensured, amongst other things, by a high Xe pressure of roughly 15 bar (cold) in the discharge vessel. The high Xe pressure causes an increased ignition voltage compared with former mercury-containing automotive HID lamps or low-pressure lamps used for general-lighting applications. The increase in ignition voltage can be limited if the electric field in front of the electrodes is raised by an uplifting of the electrical conductivity along the outer wall of the inner bulb either by a conductive layer on its surface or by a dielectric barrier discharge (DBD) within the outer bulb. This paper considers on the one hand conventional antennas deposited by physical vapour deposition (PVD) and on the other hand a combination of these antennas with a DBD within the outer-bulb operated in 100 mbar Ar as ignition aids. In both cases the antenna potential and antenna width are varied. Additionally, the effects of antenna thickness and antenna material are investigated. The ignition voltage, ignition current and light emission during ignition are measured on a nanosecond timescale. Furthermore, for the very first time, the ignition process is recorded in four consecutive intensified charge-coupled device images using a high-speed camera system with a time resolution in the range of nanoseconds. It was found that antennas strongly reduce the ignition voltage of automotive HID lamps. Active antennas reduce the ignition voltage significantly more than passive antennas, proportional to the conductance of the antenna. Combining conventional antennas with an outer-bulb discharge reduces the ignition voltage from 19 kV without any ignition aid to the intrinsic ignition voltage of the lamp below 10 kV, in the best case.