Light Emitting Diodes (LED’s) making headway in Technology
Incandescent lights, despite inefficiencies and poor reliability under power cycling, are only recently beginning to be phased out for more energy efficient options. This transition draws a striking resemblance to another technological advancement in the middle of the last century. The first computer used vacuum bulbs and required massive amounts of energy to operate. The introduction of semiconductors revolutionized the industry and made computers, a relatively exotic device at the time, available to the masses. The lighting industry now appears at a similar transition point, with a payoff in energy efficiency as well as a huge profit potential.
One technology making headway is Light-Emitting Diode (LED) lights. A diode is a simple semiconductor device.Initially incandescent lights had the upper hand on LED lighting because they generate continuous spectrum emission and are therefore, more pleasing to the eye. This is about to change. Transition to home LED lighting is well underway with LED engineering teams directing their attention to generating a color spectrum to produce light that is familiar to the human eye. Industrial, street and automotive lighting are further developed in this transition, i.e. they are in full production mode. Automotive lighting engineers aren’t as concerned with a driver being able to see all the color hues of a deer’s coat as long as the driver can see the deer in time to apply the brakes. LED Lighting is also beneficial in applications wherein maintenance is difficult, such as the Chunnel.
Finite Element Analysis is used to deal with the thermal issues involved.
Currently though, there is one important distinction that needs to be made for the thermal management of incandescent lights vs. LEDs. A typical incandescent light is usually designed to achieve the highest possible temperature without, plainly speaking, melting, the resistive element, or damaging the glass to metal seal. Conversely, LED lighting is happiest at the lowest possible temperatures. High-power LED’s often require use of heat-sinks and quality thermal interface materials. Thermal engineering is of the domain of mechanical engineering; FEA is the tool of choice to analyze the thermal problem.
Although there are obvious challenges, the benefits of LED lighting far outweigh the struggle. In addition to power efficiency, the lifespan of an LED far surpasses the minimal life of incandescent lights, by thousand of hours. This makes LED technology the poster child for legislation moving away from incandescent lights and towards more efficient lighting technology.