What is an LED?

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LED -Light Emitting Diode | Easy El...
LED -Light Emitting Diode | Easy Electronics
Sirisako Studio / Shutterstock.com

You can’t go anywhere these days without hearing about LEDs, be it in TVs, light bulbs, smartphones, or otherwise. But what are they and how are they different from other light sources? We explain it to you.

A diode that emits light

LED stands for “light emitting diode”. The word “diode” is a key component here, because a diode is a semiconductor that only allows electricity to flow in one direction.

To make an LED, manufacturers take two materials and place them in close proximity. The first material is usually a metal, such as aluminum or gold. The second is usually a compound such as gallium arsenide (GaAs). When you apply electricity to these two materials, one material absorbs electrons from the other. This results in a flow of electricity through them, which produces light.

A diagram of a single LED.
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Believe it or not, LEDs were first invented in 1927 by Oleg Losev in Russia, but a practical commercial LED wasn’t developed until the 1960s. That’s when James R. Biard and Gary Pittman created a GaAs-based LED. while working at Texas Instruments. Since then, LEDs have been used in consumer electronic devices such as calculators, optical communications equipment, and in almost every manufacturing industry.

Today, we often find LEDs in consumer light bulbs, certain types of televisions and computer screens, LED light strips, and indicator lamps in consumer electronics.

Why do LEDs consume less energy?

LEDs are more efficient than traditional light sources because they don’t use heat to produce light. Traditional light sources, such as light bulbs, produce light by heating a resistant tungsten wire until it glows red hot.

In contrast, the semiconducting materials in an LED use electricity more efficiently, creating more photons and less waste heat than incandescent bulbs per watt, meaning they don’t require as much electricity to produce light.

What are the advantages of using LEDs?

LEDs have many advantages over traditional light sources. For example, they last much longer. A traditional incandescent bulb lasts about 1,000 hours, while an LED can last about 50,000 hours. This means that you would have to replace an LED only once every 10 years.

LEDs are also more durable than traditional light sources. Traditional light sources contain fragile glass bulbs. If you drop them or hit them too hard, they will break. An LED, on the other hand, is much more resistant to physical damage. Plus, an LED bulb doesn’t contain mercury like a compact fluorescent bulb, so they’re safer if you accidentally break them.

A series of hanging LED bulbs.
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Also, as mentioned in the previous section, LEDs are much more efficient at producing light than incandescent, fluorescent, or halogen bulbs, so they use less energy.

While LEDs have many advantages over traditional light sources, they also have some disadvantages, including variable color temperature and the potential for flickering if the bulbs are poorly made. The biggest disadvantage is its initial cost. An LED is more expensive than a traditional bulb in advance. However, the initial cost of an LED is often offset by its longer lifespan and lower electricity consumption. You will end up saving money with LED bulbs in the long run.

OLED vs LED

An OLED is a type of light-emitting diode (LED). OLEDs are made from organic materials that emit light when an electrical current is passed through them.

OLED screens are different from traditional LCD flat panel displays because they don’t require a backlight. Instead, each colored pixel emits light on its own. This means that OLED screens can potentially be thinner and more flexible than LCDs. Also, OLED screens offer much higher contrast than LCD screens because blacks can be truly black instead of just blocking an always-on backlight, as is the case with an LCD screen.

bright times ahead

LEDs have a bright future. In addition to becoming more energy efficient and durable with new research, LED-based lighting technologies are becoming more affordable. As their price continues to drop, LEDs are likely to remain more popular as standard lighting in homes and as the basis for ever higher resolution digital displays in the future with OLED.

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