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How do LEDs Work & How Are They Made?

How LEDs work

The majority of people know how incandescent bulbs work and how the warm glow they provide that cuts through the darkness and brings light into our lives but have you ever asked yourself how does an LED work?

We know that there are many different types of LEDs out there in the world. They are also used in many different ways, take LED light therapy masks for example, who would have thought that LEDs can actually help your skin. But how do LEDs work exactly? 

That’s why we have put together this article on how do LEDs work. It’s all about modern LED lights (Light Emitting Diodes), what they are made of and how do LEDs work exactly.

In the following post, we will explain in detail all about these light-emitting diodes and answer your question – How do LED lights work?

How Do LEDs Work?

Light-emitting diode lights work by using two semiconducting materials cleverly arranged between its electrodes.

When a P-type semiconductor is connected to the positive electrode and the N-type semiconductor is connected to the negative electrode, the electrons are activated and start to flow from the negative side to the positive.

As these negatively charged electrons move across cross the positively charged particles, they create light.

How Do LEDs Work?
Working Principle of an LED Light

The semiconductors used are:

  • P-type – Semiconductor that has extra holes or as they are more commonly known, extra particles with a positive charge
  • N-type – Semiconductor with extra electrons, or extra particles with a negative charge

Normally the conductive material used in LEDs is AIGaAs or Aluminum-Gallium-Arsenide. However, it is worth noting that there are alternative kinds used when looking into how does a diode work.

These materials are chosen because of their ability to produce photons that when they are released with appear on the visible part of the spectrum of light.

The amount used and type of material chosen determines the light color because all conductive materials produce photons with different wavelengths, which in turn has an effect on the color and are perceived by our eyes (learn how do LEDs change color).

While we are on the subject – incandescent bulbs are able to produce light because the filament inside is heated until it glows. About 90% of the energy used to turn an incandescent light on is actually used to generate that heat.

Before you can understand more about light-emitting diodes and exactly how does a diode work, it’s vital to understand what they are a replacement for and why.

Many governments around the world have in recent years been trying to phase out the use of these traditional types of light bulbs, mainly due to their high energy consumption. The idea is that they will be replaced with more energy-efficient lighting solutions such as LEDs.

However, and this brings us back full circle as to why we explained how LEDs work, as LEDs are unfamiliar territory for many people, you may wonder why there is a need to change and making the change from what you know works (even if you didn’t know ‘how’ it worked) to something completely new can be overwhelming.

In the following post though, we want to put your mind at ease a little about making that change by helping you to understand what LEDs are and how LED lights work. We are sure this will help you see why you should change out your incandescent bulbs for modern LED lights.

What is an LED?

So first things first, we have all seen those three letters on numerous products, but what does LED actually mean? It’s an abbreviation that stands for ‘Light Emitting Diodes‘. The first two-thirds of the name are fairly self-explanatory – we hope – with light emitting meaning it produces light/gives off light.

However, you might need further explanation about what a diode is and what it does. In order to explain this, as Jennifer Aniston once said in a hair product commercial ‘here’s the science bit’.

All diodes, in general, emit electromagnetic energy particles (photons). However, it’s only specific kinds of diodes that emit that energy in the form of light rather than heat. An LED is an SSL or solid-state lighting technology.

This means that the light it produces is from a solid piece of matter. In an LED the solid piece of matter is a 2-lead semiconductor. More on that later.

If you still need any help understanding how LEDs work, check out this great video from Luxeon:

Basic Types of LEDs Used

As noted earlier, the vast majority of us have seen and used LEDs (light emitting diodes) in all manner of ways. There are two basic kinds used and these are as follows:

  • Indicators – low powered, inexpensive devices used in panels, cars and all kinds of electronic devices as indicator (and warning) lights, they’re also used in their most basic form in LED headlamps for work and older style LED camping lanterns.
  • Illuminators – higher powered LEDs that produce illumination. You probably have this kind of LED at home or even in your office. They come in an amazing range of different colors shapes and sizes. You are able, therefore, to find an LED to suit most applications.

Geeky Light Fact

So you now know how LEDs work, but did you know that white LEDs don’t exist. Well not anything that is completely and purely white. Any so-called white LED lights either have an orange or yellow coating (usually phosphor) that turns the color of the LED into white light, or they consist of a mixture of various colored LEDs.

So there you have it, we hope that has cleared up some of the mystery surrounding LEDs for you.

We also hope you can now see that as LEDs are significantly more energy-efficient than incandescent bulbs, converting and replacing to these modern lighting solutions is a very sensible thing to do. Not only do they cost less in the long run, because they need replacing less; but, they are also more versatile when it comes to offering options for different colors of lights.

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