A light-emitting diode (LED) is a two-lead semiconductor light source. It is a p–n junction diode, which emits light when activated.When a suitable voltage is applied to the leads, electrons are able to recombine with electron 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 band gap of the semiconductor.
Recent developments in LEDs permit them to be used in environmental and task lighting. LEDs have many advantages over incandescent light sources including lower energy consumption, longer lifetime, improved physical robustness, smaller size, and faster switching. Light-emitting diodes are now used in applications as diverse as aviation lighting, automotive headlamps, advertising, general lighting, traffic signals, camera flashes and lighted wallpaper. As of 2015, LEDs powerful enough for room lighting remain somewhat more expensive, and require more precise current and heat management than compact fluorescent lamp sources of comparable output.
- Efficiency: LEDs emit more lumens per watt than incandescent light bulbs. The efficiency of LED lighting fixtures is not affected by shape and size unlike fluorescent light bulbs or tubes.
- 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 attached to printed circuit boards.
- Warmup 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.
- Cycling: LEDs are ideal for uses subject to frequent on-off cycling, unlike incandescent and fluorescent lamps that fail faster when cycled often, or high-intensity discharge lamps (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. This pulse-width modulation is why LED lights, particularly headlights on cars, when viewed on camera or by some people, appear to be flashing or flickering. This is a type of stroboscopic effect.
- 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.
- 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 to 2,000 hours. Several DOE demonstrations have shown that reduced maintenance costs from this extended lifetime, rather than energy savings, is the primary factor in determining the payback period for an LED product.
- 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. For larger LED packages total internal reflection (TIR) lenses are often used to the same effect. However, when large quantities of light are needed many light sources are usually deployed, which are difficult to focus or collimate towards the same target.
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
- Narrow band light sensors where LEDs operate in a reverse-bias mode and respond to incident light, instead of emitting light
|Lightbulb Projected Lifespan||50,000 hours||10,000 hours||1,200 hours|
|Watts Per Bulb (equiv. 60 watts)||10||14||60|
|Cost Per Bulb||Approx. $19.00||$7.00||$1.25|
|KWh of Electricity Used Over 50,000 Hours||500||700||3000|
|Cost of Electricity (@ 0.10 per KWh)||$50||$70||$300|
|Bulbs Needed for 50,000 Hours of Use||1||5||42|
|Equivalent 50,000 Hours Bulb Expense||$19.00||$35.00||$52.50|
|TOTAL Cost for 50,000 Hours||$69.00||$105.00||$352.50
In the US, one kilowatt-hour (3.6 MJ) of electricity currently causes an average 1.34 pounds (610 g) of CO
2 emission.Assuming the average light bulb is on for 10 hours a day, a 40-watt bulb will cause 196 pounds (89 kg) of CO
2 emission per year. The 6-watt LED equivalent will only cause 30 pounds (14 kg) of CO
2 over the same time span. A building’s carbon footprint from lighting can, therefore, be reduced by 85% by exchanging all incandescent bulbs for new LEDs if a building previously used only incandescent bulbs.
In practice, most buildings that use a lot of lighting use fluorescent lighting, which has 22% luminous efficiency compared with 5% for filaments, so changing to LED lighting would still give a 34% reduction in electrical power use and carbon emissions.
The reduction in carbon emissions depends on the source of electricity. Nuclear power in the United States produced 19.2% of electricity in 2011, so reducing electricity consumption in the U.S. reduces carbon emissions more than in France (75% nuclear electricity) or Norway (almost entirely hydroelectric).
Replacing lights that spend the most time lit results in the most savings, so LED lights in infrequently used locations bring a smaller return on investment.