Because they take so long to come to a complete stop, it’s essential for trains to have powerful headlights bright enough to warn vehicles and people in enough time to keep off the tracks. Until recently, halogen and incandescent bulbs have been standard, though they are extremely inefficient. The necessary brightness requires a large amount of energy, the majority of which is lost in heat instead of producing light. Enter a team of researchers from Taiwan, who have developed an LED alternative headlight that uses a fraction of the energy with the potential to be even brighter than its predecessors.

The LED-based headlights utilize a set of 10 high-efficiency LEDs precisely placed in a pair of half-circular parabolic reflectors. The design reduces both the number of LEDs required and the corresponding energy, using a mere 20.18 watts instead of the many hundreds that halogen and incandescent lights demand. While efficient, the LED lights can also be dimmed when passing near platforms or busy areas to not blind passersby.

Although testing has been successful so far, researchers in Taiwan are at work to commercialize their design. The hyper-efficient setup still generates waste heat that must be dissipated, complicating their efforts. For now, the results are an exciting step forward for train headlights, but there’s still work to be done.