Universidade Federal de Juiz de Fora
IEEE UFJF Student Branch
Light Emitting Diode
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.
Among other things, they form the numbers on digital clocks, transmit information from
remote controls, light up watches and tell you when your appliances are turned on.
Basically, LEDs are just tiny light bulbs that fit easily into an electrical circuit. But unlike
ordinary incandescent bulbs, they don't have a filament that will burn out, and they don't
get especially hot. They are illuminated solely by the movement of electrons in a
semiconductor material, and they last just as long as a standard transistor.
Parts of the LED
What Is A Diode?
The simplest sort of semiconductor device. Broadly speaking, a semiconductor is a
material with a varying ability to conduct electrical current. Most semiconductors are
made of a poor conductor that has had impurities (atoms of another material) added to
it. The process of adding impurities is called doping.
In the case of LEDs, the conductor material is typically aluminum-gallium-arsenide
(AlGaAs). In pure aluminum-gallium-arsenide, all of the atoms bond perfectly to their
neighbors, leaving no free electrons (negatively-charged particles) to conduct electric
current. In doped material, additional atoms change the balance, either adding free
electrons or creating holes where electrons can go. Either of these additions make the
material more conductive.
The interaction between electrons and holes in this setup has an interesting side effect
-- it generates light!
I-V diagram for a diode. An LED will begin to emit light
when the on-voltage is exceeded. Typical on voltages are
Lifetime and failure
Solid state devices such as LEDs are subject to very limited wear and tear if
operated at low currents and at low temperatures.
The most common symptom of LED (and diode laser) failure is the gradual
lowering of light output and loss of efficiency. Sudden failures, although rare,
can occur as well.
Like other lighting devices, LED performance is temperature dependent.
LED light output actually rises at colder temperatures. Consequently, LED
technology may be a good replacement in uses such as supermarket freezer
lighting and will last longer than other technologies.
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. 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. The typical solution is to use constant current power
supplies, or driving the LED at a voltage much below the maximum rating.
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 useful noise diode.
Efficiency: LEDs emit more light per watt than incandescent light bulbs.
Color: LEDs can emit light of an intended color without using any color filters as traditional lighting methods need.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Low toxicity: LEDs do not contain mercury, unlike fluorescent lamps.
Fluorescent lamps are typically more efficient than LEDs (for lamps with the same CRI).
High initial price: LEDs are currently more expensive, price per lumen, on an initial capital cost
basis, than most conventional lighting technologies.
Temperature dependence: LED performance largely depends on the ambient temperature of the
Voltage sensitivity: LEDs must be supplied with the voltage above the threshold and a current
below the rating.
Light quality: 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
Area light source: LEDs cannot provide divergence below a few degrees. In contrast, lasers can
emit beams with divergences of 0.2 degrees or less.
Electrical Polarity: Unlike incandescent light bulbs, which illuminate regardless of the electrical
polarity, LEDs will only light with correct electrical polarity.
Droop: The efficiency of LEDs tends to decrease as one increases current
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
Narrow band light sensors where LEDs operate in a reversebias mode and respond to incident light, instead of emitting light.
Thank you for your patience and attention.