LEDs may be little, but new high-brightness models are producing a considerable amount of light. First used as status and indicator lamps, and more recently in under-shelf illumination, accent lighting, and directional marking applications, high-brightness LEDs have emerged within the last six years. But only recently have they been seriously looked upon as a feasible option in general purpose lighting

First used as status and indicator lamps, and more recently in under-shelf illumination, accent lighting, and directional marking applications, high-brightness LEDs have emerged within the last six years. But only recently have they been seriously looked upon as a feasible option in general purpose lighting applications. Before you recommend or install this type of lighting system, you should understand the basic technology upon which these devices are based.

Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are solid-state devices that convert electric energy directly into light of a single color. Because they employ “cold” light generation technology, in which most of the energy is delivered in the visible spectrum, LEDs don’t waste energy in the form of non-light producing heat. In comparison, most of the energy in an incandescent lamp is in the infrared (or non-visible) portion of the spectrum. As a result, both fluorescent and HID lamps produce a great deal of heat. In addition to producing cold light, LEDs:

Can be powered from a portable battery pack or even a solar array.

Can be integrated into a control system.

Are small in size and resistant to vibration and shock.

Have a very fast “on-time” (60 nsec vs 10 msec for an incandescent lamp).

Have good color resolution and present low, or no, shock hazard.

The centerpiece of a typical LED is a diode that is chip-mounted in a reflector cup and held in place by a mild steel lead frame connected to a pair of electrical wires. The entire arrangement is then encapsulated in epoxy. The diode chip is generally about 0.25 mm square. When current flows across the junction of two different materials, light is produced from within the solid crystal chip. The shape, or width, of the emitted light beam is determined by a variety of factors: the shape of the reflector cup, the size of the LED chip, the shape of the epoxy lens and the distance between the LED chip and the epoxy lens. The composition of the materials determines the wavelength and color of light. In addition to visible wavelengths, LEDs are also available in infrared wavelengths, from 830 nm to 940 nm.

Read more: Understanding LED Technology


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