Foundations of LED Technology
A light-emitting diode (LED) is a semiconductor light source. LEDs are used as indicator lamps in many devices, and are increasingly used for lighting. Introduced as a practical electronic component in 1962, early LEDs emitted low-intensity red light, but modern versions are available across the visible, ultraviolet and infrared wavelengths, with very high brightness.
The LED is based on the semiconductor diode. When a diode is forward biased (switched on), electrons are able to recombine with holes within the device, releasing energy in the form of photons. This effect is called electroluminescence and the color of the light (corresponding to the energy of the photon) is determined by the energy gap of the semiconductor. An LED is usually small in area (less than 1 mm2), and integrated optical components are used to shape its radiation pattern and assist in reflection.
LEDs present many advantages over incandescent light sources including lower energy consumption, longer lifetime, improved robustness, smaller size, faster switching, and greater durability and reliability. However, they are relatively expensive and require more precise current and heat management than traditional light sources.
They also enjoy use in applications as diverse as replacements for traditional light sources in aviation lighting, automotive lighting (particularly indicators) and in traffic signals. The compact size of LEDs has allowed new text and video displays and sensors to be developed, while their high switching rates are useful in advanced communications technology. IR LEDs are also used in many commercial products such as a TV remote.
The first commercial LEDs were commonly used as replacements for incandescent and neon indicator lamps, first in expensive equipment such as laboratory and electronics test equipment, then later in such appliances as TVs, radios, telephones, calculators, and even watches. These red LEDs were bright enough only for use as indicators, as the light output was not enough to illuminate an area. Later, other colors became widely available and also appeared in appliances and equipment. As the LED materials technology became more advanced, the light output was increased, while maintaining the efficiency and the reliability to an acceptable level. The invention and development of the high power white light LED led to use for illumination.
The first high-brightness blue LED was demonstrated by Shuji Nakamura of Nichia Corporation and was based on InGaN.
In 1995, Alberto Barbieri at the Cardiff University Laboratory (GB) investigated the efficiency and reliability of high-brightness LEDs and demonstrated a very impressive result by using a transparent contact made of indium tin oxide (ITO) on (AlGaInP/GaAs) LED. The existence of blue LEDs and high efficiency LEDs quickly led to the development of the first white LED, which employed a Y3Al5O12:Ce, or "YAG", phosphor coating to mix yellow (down-converted) light with blue to produce light that appears white. Nakamura was awarded the 2006 Millennium Technology Prize for his invention.
The development of LED technology has caused their efficiency and light output to increase exponentially, with a doubling occurring about every 36 months since the 1960s, in a way similar to Moore's law. The advances are generally attributed to the parallel development of other semiconductor technologies and advances in optics and material science. This trend is normally called Haitz's Law after Dr. Roland Haitz.
In February 2008, Bilkent University in Turkey reported 300 lumens of visible light per watt luminous efficacy (not per electrical watt) and warm light by using nanocrystals.
In January 2009, researchers from Cambridge University reported a process for growing gallium nitride (GaN) LEDs on silicon. Production costs could be reduced by 90% using six-inch silicon wafers instead of two-inch sapphire wafers. The team was led by Colin Humphreys.
High power LEDs
High power LEDs (HPLED) can be driven at currents from hundreds of mA to more than an ampere, compared with the tens of mA for other LEDs. Some can produce over a thousand lumens. Since overheating is destructive, the HPLEDs must be mounted on a heat sink to allow for heat dissipation. If the heat from a HPLED is not removed, the device will burn out in seconds. A single HPLED can often replace an incandescent bulb in a flashlight, or be set in an array to form a powerful LED lamp.
As of September 2009 some HPLEDs manufactured by Cree Inc. now exceed 105 lm/W (e.g. the XLamp XP-G LED chip emitting Cool White light) and are being sold in lamps intended to replace incandescent, halogen, and even fluorescent style lights as LEDs become more cost competitive.
LEDs have been developed by Seoul Semiconductor that can operate on AC power without the need for a DC converter. For each half cycle part of the LED emits light and part is dark, and this is reversed during the next half cycle. The efficacy of this type of HPLED is typically 40lm/W. A large number of LED elements in series may be able to operate directly from line voltage.
Medium power LEDs are often through-hole mounted and used when an output of a few lumen is needed. They sometimes have the diode mounted to four leads (two cathode leads, two anode leads) for better heat conduction and carry an integrated lens. These LEDs are most commonly used in light panels, emergency lighting and automotive tail-lights. Due to the larger amount of metal in the LED, they are able to handle higher currents (around 100mA). The higher current allows for the higher light output required for tail-lights and emergency lighting.
• Flashing LEDs are used as attention seeking indicators without requiring external electronics. Flashing LEDs resemble standard LEDs but they contain an integrated multivibrator circuit which causes the LED to flash with a typical period of one second. In diffused lens LEDs this is visible as a small black dot. Most flashing LEDs emit light of a single color, but more sophisticated devices can flash between multiple colors and even fade through a color sequence using RGB color mixing.
• Bi-color LEDs are actually two different LEDs in one case. They consist of two dies connected to the same two leads antiparallel to each other. Current flow in one direction produces one color, and current in the opposite direction produces the other color. Alternating the two colors with sufficient frequency causes the appearance of a blended third color. For example, a red/green LED operated in this fashion will color blend to produce a yellow appearance.
• Tri-color LEDs are two LEDs in one case, but the two LEDs are connected to separate leads so that the two LEDs can be controlled independently and lit simultaneously. A three-lead arrangement is typical with one common lead (anode or cathode).
• RGB LEDs contain red, green and blue emitters, generally using a four-wire connection with one common lead (anode or cathode). These LEDs can have either common positive or common negative leads. Others however, have only two leads (positive and negative) and have a built in tiny electronic control unit.
• Alphanumeric LED displays are available in seven-segment and starburst format. Seven-segment displays handle all numbers and a limited set of letters. Starburst displays can display all letters. Seven-segment LED displays were in widespread use in the 1970s and 1980s, but increasing use of liquid crystal displays, with their lower power consumption and greater display flexibility, has reduced the popularity of numeric and alphanumeric LED displays.
Siam Green Power International Co., Ltd.
555/7 Nirvana Park On-Nut Soi 65-67
Sukhumvit Rd. 77
Kwaeng Pravet, Khet Pravet
Office: 02 328 7334
Mobile: 087 22 65 455
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Fax: 02 328 7335
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