Considerations for use
The current/voltage characteristic of an LED is similar to other diodes, in that the current is dependent exponentially on the voltage (see Shockley diode equation). This means that a small change in voltage can cause a large change in current. If the maximum voltage rating is exceeded by a small amount, the current rating may be exceeded by a large amount, potentially damaging or destroying the LED (Dell XPS M1210 Battery) .
The typical solution is to use constant current power supplies, or driving the LED at a voltage much below the maximum rating. Since most common power sources (batteries, mains) are not constant current sources, most LED fixtures must include a power converter. However, the I/V curve of nitride-based LEDs is quite steep above the knee and gives an If of a few milliamperes at a Vf of 3 V, making it possible to power a nitride-based LED from a 3 V battery such as a coin cell without the need for a current limiting resistor (Dell Studio XPS 1340 Battery) .
As with all diodes, current flows easily from p-type to n-type material. However, no current flows and no light is emitted if a small voltage is applied in the reverse direction. If the reverse voltage grows large enough to exceed the breakdown voltage, a large current flows and the LED may be damaged. If the reverse current is sufficiently limited to avoid damage, the reverse-conducting LED is a usefulnoise diode (Dell Studio XPS 1640 Battery) .
The vast majority of devices containing LEDs are "safe under all conditions of normal use", and so are classified as "Class 1 LED product"/"LED Klasse 1". At present, only a few LEDs—extremely bright LEDs that also have a tightly focused viewing angle of 8° or less—could, in theory, cause temporary blindness, and so are classified as "Class 2" (Dell Vostro 1710 Battery) .
In general, laser safety regulations—and the "Class 1", "Class 2", etc. system—also apply to LEDs.
- Efficiency: LEDs emit more light per watt than incandescent bulbs.Their efficiency is not affected by shape and size, unlike Fluorescent light bulbs or tubes (Sony VGP-BPS13 battery) .
- Color: LEDs can emit light of an intended color without using any color filters as traditional lighting methods need. This is more efficient and can lower initial costs.
- Size: LEDs can be very small (smaller than 2 mm2) and are easily populated onto printed circuit boards.
- On/Off time: LEDs light up very quickly. A typical red indicator LED will achieve full brightness in under a microsecond.LEDs used in communications devices can have even faster response times (Sony VGP-BPS13/B battery) .
- Cycling: LEDs are ideal for uses subject to frequent on-off cycling, unlike fluorescent lamps that fail faster when cycled often, or HID lamps that require a long time before restarting.
- Dimming: LEDs can very easily be dimmed either by pulse-width modulation or lowering the forward current.
- Cool light: In contrast to most light sources, LEDs radiate very little heat in the form of IR that can cause damage to sensitive objects or fabrics. Wasted energy is dispersed as heat through the base of the LED (Sony VGP-BPS13/S battery) .
- Slow failure: LEDs mostly fail by dimming over time, rather than the abrupt failure of incandescent bulbs.
- Lifetime: LEDs can have a relatively long useful life. One report estimates 35,000 to 50,000 hours of useful life, though time to complete failure may be longer. Fluorescent tubes typically are rated at about 10,000 to 15,000 hours, depending partly on the conditions of use, and incandescent light bulbs at 1,000–2,000 hours (Sony VGP-BPS13A/B battery) .
- Shock resistance: LEDs, being solid state components, are difficult to damage with external shock, unlike fluorescent and incandescent bulbs which are fragile.
- Focus: The solid package of the LED can be designed to focus its light. Incandescent and fluorescent sources often require an external reflector to collect light and direct it in a usable manner (Sony VGP-BPS13B/B battery) .
- Low toxicity: LEDs do not contain mercury, unlike fluorescent lamps.
- Some Fluorescent lamps can be more efficient.
- High initial price: LEDs are currently more expensive, price per lumen, on an initial capital cost basis, than most conventional lighting technologies. The additional expense partially stems from the relatively low lumen output and the drive circuitry and power supplies needed (Sony VGP-BPL9 battery) .
- Temperature dependence: LED performance largely depends on the ambient temperature of the operating environment. Over-driving an LED in high ambient temperatures may result in overheating the LED package, eventually leading to device failure. Adequate heat sinking is needed to maintain long life (Sony VGP-BPL11 battery) .
- This is especially important in automotive, medical, and military uses where devices must operate over a wide range of temperatures, and need low failure rates.
- Voltage sensitivity: LEDs must be supplied with the voltage above the threshold and a current below the rating. This can involve series resistors or current-regulated power supplies (Sony VGP-BPL15 battery) .
- Light quality: Most cool-white LEDs have spectra that differ significantly from a black body radiator like the sun or an incandescent light. The spike at 460 nm and dip at 500 nm can cause the color of objects to be perceived differently under cool-white LED illumination than sunlight or incandescent sources, due to metamerism, red surfaces being rendered particularly badly by typical phosphor based cool-white LEDs (Dell Inspiron E1505 battery) .
- However, the color rendering properties of common fluorescent lamps are often inferior to what is now available in state-of-art white LEDs.
- Area light source: LEDs do not approximate a “point source” of light, but rather a lambertian distribution. So LEDs are difficult to apply to uses needing a spherical light field (Dell Latitude E6400 battery) .
- LEDs cannot provide divergence below a few degrees. In contrast, lasers can emit beams with divergences of 0.2 degrees or less.
- Blue hazard: There is a concern that blue LEDs and cool-white LEDs are now capable of exceeding safe limits of the so-called blue-light hazard as defined in eye safety specifications such as ANSI/IESNA RP-27.1-05: Recommended Practice for Photobiological Safety for Lamp and Lamp Systems (HP Pavilion dv6000 Battery) .
- Blue pollution: Because cool-white LEDs (i.e., LEDs with high color temperature) emit proportionally more blue light than conventional outdoor light sources such as high-pressure sodium vapor lamps, the strong wavelength dependence of Rayleigh scattering means that cool-white LEDs can cause more light pollution than other light sources. (Sony Vaio VGN-FZ31S battery)
- The International Dark-Sky Associationdiscourages using white light sources with correlated color temperature above 3,000 K.
- Droop: The efficiency of LEDs tends to decrease as one increases current (Sony VGN-FZ31S battery) .
LED uses fall into four major categories:
- Visual signals where light goes more or less directly from the source to the human eye, to convey a message or meaning.
- Illumination where light is reflected from objects to give visual response of these objects.
- Measuring and interacting with processes involving no human vision (Hp pavilion dv6000 battery) .
- Narrow band light sensors where LEDs operate in a reverse-bias mode and respond to incident light, instead of emitting light.
Indicators and signs
The low energy consumption, low maintenance and small size of modern LEDs has led to uses as status indicators and displays on a variety of equipment and installations. Large area LED displays are used as stadium displays and as dynamic decorative displays (SONY VGN-FZ38M Battery) .
Thin, lightweight message displays are used at airports and railway stations, and as destination displays for trains, buses, trams, and ferries.
One-color light is well suited for traffic lights and signals, exit signs, emergency vehicle lighting, ships' navigation lights or lanterns (chromacity and luminance standards being set under the Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea 1972, Annex I and the CIE) and LED-based Christmas lights (SONY VGN-FZ31z Battery) .
In cold climates, LED traffic lights may remain snow covered. Red or yellow LEDs are used in indicator and alphanumeric displays in environments where night vision must be retained: aircraft cockpits, submarine and ship bridges, astronomy observatories, and in the field, e.g. night time animal watching and military field use (SONY VGN-FZ31E Battery) .
Because of their long life and fast switching times, LEDs have been used in brake lights for cars high-mounted brake lights, trucks, and buses, and in turn signals for some time, but many vehicles now use LEDs for their rear light clusters. The use in brakes improves safety, due to a great reduction in the time needed to light fully, or faster rise time, up to 0.5 second faster than an incandescent bulb (SONY VGN-FZ31J Battery) .
This gives drivers behind more time to react. It is reported that at normal highway speeds, this equals one car length equivalent in increased time to react. In a dual intensity circuit (i.e., rear markers and brakes) if the LEDs are not pulsed at a fast enough frequency, they can create a phantom array, where ghost images of the LED will appear if the eyes quickly scan across the array (SONY VGN-FZ31M Battery) .
White LED headlamps are starting to be used. Using LEDs has styling advantages because LEDs can form much thinner lights than incandescent lamps with parabolic reflectors.
Due to the relative cheapness of low output LEDs, they are also used in many temporary uses such as glowsticks, throwies, and the photonic textileLumalive. Artists have also used LEDs for LED art (SONY VGN-FZ31B Battery) .
Weather/all-hazards radio receivers with Specific Area Message Encoding (SAME) have three LEDs: red for warnings, orange for watches, and yellow for advisories & statements whenever issued.
Main article: LED lamp
With the development of high efficiency and high power LEDs it has grown possible to use LEDs in lighting and illumination (SONY VGP-BPS13 Battery) .
Replacement light bulbs have been made, as well as dedicated fixtures and LED lamps. LEDs are used as street lights and in other architectural lighting where color changing is used. The mechanical robustness and long lifetime is used in automotive lighting on cars, motorcycles and on bicycle lights (Dell Inspiron 1320 Battery) .
LED street lights are employed on poles and in parking garages. In 2007, the Italian village Torraca was the first place to convert its entire illumination system to LEDs.
LEDs are used in aviation lighting. Airbus has used LED lighting in their Airbus A320 Enhanced since 2007, and Boeing plans its use in the 787 (Dell Inspiron 1320n Battery) .
LEDs are also being used now in airport and heliport lighting. LED airport fixtures currently include medium intensity runway lights, runway centerline lights and obstruction lighting.
LEDs are also suitable for backlighting for LCD televisions and lightweight laptop displays and light source for DLP projectors (See LED TV) (Dell Inspiron 1464 Battery) .
RGB LEDs raise the color gamut by as much as 45%. Screens for TV and computer displays can be made thinner using LEDs for backlighting.
LEDs are used increasingly commonly in aquarium lights. Particularly for reef aquariums, LED lights provide an efficient light source with less heat output to help maintain optimal aquarium temperatures (Dell Inspiron 1564 Battery) .
LED-based aquarium fixtures also have the advantage of being manually adjustable to emit a specific color-spectrum for ideal coloration of corals, fish, and invertebrates while optimizing photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) which raises growth and sustainability of photosynthetic life such as corals, anemones, clams, and macroalgae (Dell Inspiron 1764 Battery) .
These fixtures can be electronically programmed to simulate various lighting conditions throughout the day, reflecting phases of the sun and moon for a dynamic reef experience. LED fixtures typically cost up to five times as much as similarly rated fluorescent or high-intensity discharge lighting designed for reef aquariums and are not as high output to date (Dell Studio 1450 Battery) .
The lack of IR/heat radiation makes LEDs ideal for stage lights using banks of RGB LEDs that can easily change color and decrease heating from traditional stage lighting, as well as medical lighting where IR-radiation can be harmful.
LEDs are small, durable and need little power, so they are used in hand held devices such as flashlights. LED strobe lights or camera flashes operate at a safe, low voltage, instead of the 250+ volts commonly found in xenon flashlamp-based lighting (Dell Studio 1457 Battery) .
This is especially useful in cameras on mobile phones, where space is at a premium and bulky voltage-raising circuitry is undesirable. LEDs are used for infrared illumination in night vision uses including security cameras. A ring of LEDs around a video camera, aimed forward into a retroreflective background, allows chroma keying in video productions (Dell Latitude D610 Battery) .
LEDs are used for decorative lighting as well. Uses include but are not limited to indoor/outdoor decor, limousines, cargo trailers, conversion vans, cruise ships, RVs, boats, automobiles, and utility trucks. Decorative LED lighting can also come in the form of lighted company signage and step and aisle lighting in theaters and auditoriums (Toshiba NB100 Battery) .
Light can be used to transmit broadband data, which is already implemented in IrDA standards using infrared LEDs. Because LEDs can cycle on and offmillions of times per second, they can be wireless transmitters and access points for data transport. Lasers can also be modulated in this manner (Toshiba Satellite M65 battery) .
Efficient lighting is needed for sustainable architecture. A 13 watt LED lamp emits 450 to 650 lumens. which is equivalent to a standard 40 watt incandescent bulb.A standard 40 W incandescent bulb has an expected lifespan of 1,000 hours while an LED can continue to operate with reduced efficiency for more than 50,000 hours, 50 times longer than the incandescent bulb (Toshiba Satellite M60 battery) .
Environmentally friendly options
One kilowatt-hour of electricity will cause 1.34 pounds (610 g) of CO2 emission.Assuming the average light bulb is on for 10 hours a day, one 40-watt incandescent bulb will cause 196 pounds (89 kg) of CO2 emission per year. The 13-watt LED equivalent will only cause 63 pounds (29 kg) of CO2 over the same time span (Dell Latitude D830 Battery) .
A building’s carbon footprint from lighting can be reduced by 68% by exchanging all incandescent bulbs for new LEDs in warm climates. In cold climates, the energy saving may be lower, since more heating is needed to compensate for the lower temperature.
LEDs are also non-toxic unlike the more popular energy efficient bulb option: the compact fluorescent a.k.a. CFL which contains traces of harmful mercury (Dell Studio 1735 Battery) .
While the amount of mercury in a CFL is small, introducing less into the environment is preferable.
LED light bulbs could be a cost-effective option for lighting a home or office space because of their very long lifetimes (Dell Latitude D620 Battery) .
Consumer use of LEDs as a replacement for conventional lighting system is currently hampered by the high cost and low efficiency of available products. 2009 DOE testing results showed an average efficacy of 35 lm/W, below that of typical CFLs, and as low as 9 lm/W, worse than standard incandescents (Dell Inspiron Mini 10 Battery) .
The high initial cost of the commercial LED bulb is due to the expensive sapphire substrate which is key to the production process. The sapphire apparatus must be coupled with a mirror-like collector to reflect light that would otherwise be wasted.
In 2008, a materials science research team at Purdue University succeeded in making LED bulbs with a substitute for the sapphire components (Sony VGN-FW11S Battery) .
The team used metal-coated silicon wafers with a built-in reflective layer of zirconium nitride to lessen the overall production cost of the LED. They predict that within a few years, LEDs produced with their revolutionary new method will be competitively priced with CFLs. The less expensive LED would not only be the best energy saver, but also a low cost bulb (Sony VGN-FW11M Battery) .
Light has many other uses besides for seeing. LEDs are used for some of these. The uses fall in three groups: Communication, sensors and light matter interaction.
The light from LEDs can be modulated very quickly so they are used extensively in optical fiber and Free Space Optics communications (Dell Studio 1555 battery) .
This include remote controls, such as for TVs and VCRs, where infrared LEDs are often used. Opto-isolators use an LED combined with a photodiode or phototransistor to provide a signal path with electrical isolation between two circuits. This is especially useful in medical equipment where the signals from a low voltage sensorcircuit (usually battery powered) (Dell Latitude E5400 Battery)
in contact with a living organism must be electrically isolated from any possible electrical failure in a recording or monitoring device operating at potentially dangerous voltages. An optoisolator also allows information to be transferred between circuits not sharing a common ground potential (Dell Latitude E4200 Battery) .
Many sensor systems rely on light as the signal source. LEDs are often ideal as a light source due to the requirements of the sensors. LEDs are used asmovement sensors, for example in optical computer mice. The Nintendo Wii's sensor bar uses infrared LEDs. In pulse oximeters for measuring oxygen saturation (Dell Vostro A840 Battery) .
Some flatbed scanners use arrays of RGB LEDs rather than the typical cold-cathode fluorescent lamp as the light source. Having independent control of three illuminated colors allows the scanner to calibrate itself for more accurate color balance, and there is no need for warm-up (Dell Inspiron 300M Battery) .
Further, its sensors only need be monochromatic, since at any one time the page being scanned is only lit by one color of light. Touch sensing: Since LEDs can also be used as photodiodes, they can be used for both photo emission and detection. This could be used in for example a touch-sensing screen that register reflected light from a finger or stylus (Dell Studio 1737 battery) .
Many materials and biological systems are sensitive to, or dependent on light. Grow lights use LEDs to increase photosynthesis in plants and bacteria and viruses can be removed from water and other substances using UV LEDs for sterilization.Other uses are as UV curing devices for some ink and coating methods, and in LED printers (Dell Inspiron E1505 battery) .
Plant growers are interested in LEDs because they are more energy efficient, emit less heat (can damage plants close to hot lamps), and can provide the optimum light frequency for plant growth and bloom periods compared to currently used grow lights: HPS (high pressure sodium), MH (metal halide) or CFL/low-energy. However, LEDs have not replaced these grow lights due to higher price (Dell Latitude E6400 battery) .
As mass production and LED kits develop, the LED products will become cheaper.
LEDs have also been used as a medium quality voltage reference in electronic circuits. The forward voltage drop (e.g., about 1.7 V for a normal red LED) can be used instead of a Zener diode in low-voltage regulators (Dell RM791 battery) .
Red LEDs have the flattest I/V curve above the knee. Nitride-based LEDs have a fairly steep I/V curve and are useless for this purpose. Although LED forward voltage is far more current-dependent than a good Zener, Zener diodes are not widely available below voltages of about 3 V (Dell XPS M1530 battery) .
Light sources for machine vision systems
Machine vision systems often require bright and homogeneous illumination, so features of interest are easier to process. LEDs are often used for this purpose, and this is likely to remain one of their major uses until price drops low enough to make signaling and illumination uses more widespread (Dell XPS M2010 battery) .
Barcode scanners are the most common example of machine vision, and many low cost ones use red LEDs instead of lasers. Optical computer mice are also another example of LEDs in machine vision, as it is used to provide an even light source on the surface for the miniature camera within the mouse (Dell Vostro 1000 battery) .
LEDs constitute a nearly ideal light source for machine vision systems for several reasons:
The size of the illuminated field is usually comparatively small and machine vision systems are often quite expensive, so the cost of the light source is usually a minor concern. However, it might not be easy to replace a broken light source placed within complex machinery, and here the long service life of LEDs is a benefit (Acer Aspire One battery) .
LED elements tend to be small and can be placed with high density over flat or even shaped substrates (PCBs etc.) so that bright and homogeneous sources can be designed which direct light from tightly controlled directions on inspected parts. This can often be obtained with small, low cost lenses and diffusers, helping to achieve high light densities with control over lighting levels and homogeneity (Toshiba Satellite P10 Battery) .
LED sources can be shaped in several configurations (spot lights for reflective illumination; ring lights for coaxial illumination; back lights for contour illumination; linear assemblies; flat, large format panels; dome sources for diffused, omnidirectional illumination).
LEDs can be easily strobed (in the microsecond range and below) and synchronized with imaging (SONY VGN-FZ210CE Battery) .
High power LEDs are available allowing well lit images even with very short light pulses. This is often used to obtain crisp and sharp “still” images of quickly moving parts.
LEDs come in several different colors and wavelengths, allowing easy use of the best color for each need, where different color may provide better visibility of features of interest (Dell Precision M70 Battery) .
Having a precisely known spectrum allows tightly matched filters to be used to separate informative bandwidth or to reduce disturbing effects of ambient light. LEDs usually operate at comparatively low working temperatures, simplifying heat management and dissipation (Toshiba Satellite L305 Battery) .
This allows using plastic lenses, filters, and diffusers. Waterproof units can also easily be designed, allowing use in harsh or wet environments (food, beverage, oil industries).