Volume 7 Issue 3
May 2003    
beam angle - The angle at which luminous intensity is 50 percent of the maximum intensity. bin - To sort or classify light sources (such as light emitting diodes) into groups according to their luminous intensity or color appearance. conduction - The process of removing heat from an object via physical contact with other objects or materials, usually metals. convection - The process of removing heat from an object through the surrounding air. cosine distribution - A property of a light source such that its luminous intensity in a particular direction is proportional to the cosine of the angle from the normal to the source. driver - For light emitting diodes, a device that regulates the voltage and current powering the source. heat sinking - Adding a material, usually metal, adjacent to an object in order to cool it through conduction. illumination - The process of using light to see objects at a particular location. indication - The process of using a light source as something to be seen as in signaling. junction temperature - For light emitting diodes, the temperature of the light-emitting portion of the device (see PN junction), which is inversely correlated with its light output. lumen maintenance - The lumens produced by a light source at any given time during its operating life as a percentage of its lumens at the beginning of life. monochromatic - For light, consisting of a single wavelength and having a very saturated color. PN junction - For light emitting diodes, the portion of the device where positive and negative charges combine to produce light. pulse-width modulation - Operating a light source by very rapidly (faster than can be detected visually) switching it on and off to achieve intermediate values of average light output; the frequency and the duty cycle (percentage of time the source is switched on) are important parameters in the modulation. semiconductor - A material whose electrical conductivity is between that of a conductor and an insulator; the conductivity of most semiconductors is temperature dependent. spectral power distribution (SPD) - A representation of the radiant power emitted by a light source as a function of wavelength. substrate - For light emitting diodes, the material on which the devices are constructed. tri-phosphor - A mixture of three phosphors to convert ultraviolet radiation to visible light in fluorescent lamps; each of the phosphors emits light that is blue, green or red in appearance with the combination producing white light.
Why is heat sinking important for LEDs?

It is common to refer to LEDs as “cool” sources in terms of temperature. This is because the spectral output of LEDs for lighting does not contain infrared radiation, unlike incandescent lamps that produce a large amount of infrared (of course, some LEDs for manufacturing purposes are designed to produce infrared energy, but these are not considered in this publication). LEDs are also often considered "cool" because they generate light through a mechanism other than thermal excitation of a substance, such as the tungsten filament in an incandescent lamp. Although LED lighting systems do not produce significant amounts of radiated heat, LEDs still generate heat within the junction, which must be dissipated by convection and conduction. Extracting heat from the device using heat sinks and by operating LEDs in lower ambient temperatures enables higher light output and longer life of the device.

The need to ensure heat sinking with LED systems is also important to consider when these systems are installed in applications. There must be sufficient means to conduct the heat away from the system, or ventilation to cool heated surfaces by convection. Locating an LED lighting system in an insulated and relatively small space will likely result in rapidly increased junction temperature and suboptimal performance.

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