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The biggest limitation to LED efficiency is temperature rise. LED prototype designers have therefore delved into research on how to effectively dissipate heat from solid state lighting. The flopping of traditional first generation LEDs has been blamed on poor heat management. To achieve a longer life span, engineers have employed passive cooling or heat sink designs to efficiently control temperature rise in LEDs.
The discovery of heat sink in LED lights brought a lot of promise into what the future of next-generation LEDs would be like. As effective thermal management mechanisms, the LED heat sinks have really worked out as expected. However, the underlying problem has been a massive accounting time, which resulted in the following limitations.
High material consumption
High shipping costs
Interference with lumen designs due to bulky design
Here is the nature of the fundamental problem that caused heat sink in LED lights to always be under conflict with reliable design features. Besides the lighting efficiency of LED systems, heat dissipation is an essential component that is highly considered during the development of LED lights. The size of the luminaires greatly contributes to the amount of generated heat. This has called for the implementation of the smallest luminaires that have the highest light output. Sadly, the heat sink in LED lights cannot adequately compliment the desired tiny design of the luminaires. To keep this conflict at bay, the luminaires are often covered or modified. Therefore resulting in high light output, that is obviously favorable but causes poor thermal performance.
A solution to this problem lies in the shape of a heat sink in LED lights that put a high value on thermal performance as well as lighting aesthetics. The inspiration behind the correct performance design is the natural evolution. Natural evolution seeks to create a balance between material designs of the LED lights with the size of the luminaires through biological life cycle concepts. Taking this harmonic balance in regards to the technical architecture of a LED system benefits its design in the following ways;
Connecting the intrinsic design and compactness of the luminaires
Efficiently dissipating heat
The result has been a variety of more sophisticated designs of the heat sink in LED lights that are sleek, lighter and induce thermal management more efficiently.
Heat Sink Technology in today’s lighting system
Heat transfer in LED lighting occurs through convection and conduction. Excess heat is dissipated away from the LED junction into heat sink in LED lights. The dissipated heat is then conducted away from the heat sink in LED lights into the atmosphere through convection. Convection happens as the air flows around the heat sink. The improvement of the convection cooling effect is enhanced by increasing the surface area of the heat sink. This is mainly influenced by the fact that a greater surface is proportional to a larger volume of convection air. Improving the heat sink has therefore been about improving the heat sink attached to the LED lights; thereby increasing the conductivity; as well as increasing the heat sink surface area to increase convection cooling.
Even as stressing the fact that the heat sinks surface area and attachment remaining important to the overall performance of a LED system; any air pockets in the LED system heat sink will inhibit the conduction process. The conduction efficiency also calls for conduction reliable materials. Therefore, manufacturers of LED systems are usually on the lookout for materials that will minimize the probability of air pockets as well those that are better conductors of heat.
The limitation of the geometry and shape of LED fixtures have resulted in the advancement of several heat sink design methodologies. Engineers have now designed heat sinks in LED lights with radial patterns, double folded or grid layout fins. Implementation of superconductor materials like aluminum which are easy to shape with affecting their conductivity has also improved LED systems.
The basic idea behind using fins in heat sink technology for lighting systems is thanks to Philips. The company set the pace in the manufacture of LED systems by introducing a new heat sink architecture and form factors. Philips introduced the new LED system in the L prize that had them walk away with $10 million in cash prize. The target of the competition was to reward a company that would be able to design a 60 W A-lamp replacement LED system that would be able to run for 25,000 hours without facing heating challenges. The Philips prototype, therefore, implemented a then fresh type of aluminum heat sink that used fins to increase the surface area for heat dissipation and therefore created a benchmark for LED manufacturers to learn from.
The next trend in LED system innovation seems to be sprouting from the ongoing experimentation with thermal conductive plastics, graphite, and ceramics. In fact, ceramics have already been implemented in some designs because of the good heat conductivity but no electric conductivity.
Thermo conductive plastics are also a trend to watch. These plastics are filled with aluminum nitride - a conductive material. The advantage of aluminum nitride is its corrosion resistant nature. Therefore, they are suited for LED systems that can be used in the outdoor application. Thermoplastics are also affordable and less expensive than aluminum.
Some companies are also making use of metal alloys, copper – extruded aluminum to reap huge benefits from both metals when it comes to conductivity and affordability. The implementation of numerous thin fins also increases the surface area in this metal combination and therefore improves heat dissipation.
The improvement in LED systems seems to face a lot of transformation with engineers looking for better ways to 100% energy conversion efficiency into light energy.
Heat sinks are the way to go as well and the introduction of fins has finally made LED systems appeal to the general public. Longevity and affordability are keys to the system’s appeal. The introduction of new materials, like aluminum, ceramic and thermoplastics has transformed the working of LEDs into high-performance lighting systems. Such improvements have and will continue to dramatically improve the LED lighting systems through a reliable thermal management device. The challenge of heat management is only yet to be solved and there is a likelihood of more advanced results of the heat sink in LED lights that have never been achieved. In the meantime, keep your LED lights cool with innovative heat sink designs.