Different Types of LEDs
Knowledge Base

Different Types Of LED Lights

Nowadays, there are various different colors, shapes, sizes, and types of LED lights available. This is a direct and positive result of all the effort that has been put into the evolution and enhancement of semiconductor technology over the last couple of decades.

You may only be familiar with the LED in your office lamp or those in various electronic and electrical devices and appliances throughout your home; but that is only scratching the surface really? What about all the other types of LED lights out there?

In the following post, we will look at the many LED types and the uses of all types of LED bulbs.

Miniature LEDs (Chip, Nano & Pico LEDs)

Miniature LEDs are arguably the most common type of LEDs, are very small and are often available as a single color or shape. These are used in remote controls, calculators and mobile phones as indicators.

Nano Pico LED Lights

Thanks to the simple design and size of these LED types of lights, they can be placed onto a circuit board directly, without a device to cool or control heat.

As a result, they are often utilized in technologically advanced and complex automated industries.

You will find that miniature LEDs can be split into 3 sub-types:

  • Standard
  • Low-current
  • Ultra-high output

All 3 of these LED types vary in terms of the total wattage, voltage and current and their manufacturer. Also available are 12 and 5 volt varieties of miniature LEDs.

These differ ever so slightly from standard miniatures though, as they use an appropriate series resistor so they can be connected directly to a high power source.

High Power LEDs

With improvements to the technology behind diodes, came High-Power LEDs. This type of LEDs is also often called high-output, as they produce a greater number of lumens than standard varieties.

Interestingly, in actual fact, the high-powered chips in high output LED types are capable of producing light consisting of 1,000s of lumens. High-Power (or output) LEDs can be split into various sub-types based on various parameters, such as:

  • Luminosity
  • Wavelength
  • Voltage

As there is always a risk of these particular LEDs overheating, it is crucial that they are always connected to some kind of suitably heat-absorbent material, to encourage convection to cool them down. This not only keeps them working at an effective and efficient level but stops them from burning out prematurely.

High Power LEDs

Regardless of what it is for, when purchasing a high-power LED of any kind, it is wise to consider heat control. There are certain temperature limits, in the same way there are maximum current limits. Even if a manufacturer claims they have designed the best high power LED ever, you should always check that there is sufficient balance between output and heat dissipation. When this balance is there, the LED’s lifespan and reliability is improved, which means money savings for you, eventually.

High-power LEDs are generally used in LED tube lighting, high powered lamps such as LED headlamps, car headlights and numerous scientific, industrial and mechanical applications.

Application-Specific LEDs

This very self-explanatory type of LEDs category can be split into numerous sub-types, including:

  • Lighting
  • Alphanumeric
  • RGB or Red Green Blue
  • Bi-Color and Tri-Color
  • Flashing

Lighting LEDs

There are various different sizes and shapes of lighting LEDs (often called illuminators, LED bars or simply LED lamps). One of the most common is, of course, the Edison light bulb design which can be found in the best Candelabra bulbs and is very popular.

As we’ve highlighted before, heat is a problem for LEDs. One way manufacturers are combating this issue is by utilizing a ceramic/aluminum body that features fins to expand the area where heat can escape from.

Depending on how a light is used and the manufacturer, the techniques for heat dissipation employed vary between the type of LEDs.

Alphanumeric LEDs

It has to be said that the popularity of alphanumeric LEDs has decreased recently and although various people have theories about why this is (including the TV show 24 being canceled), it is more than likely a result of LCD advancements, that offer increased flexibility visually and use considerably less energy. They are still important enough to talk about though.

Alphanumeric Types of LEDs

Within this sub-type of Application-specific LEDs there are actually 4 alphanumeric sub-types:

  • 7-segment – Alphanumeric LED that handles a specific set of letters and all the numbers
  • 4- and 16-segment – These are alphanumeric LEDs commonly known as star-burst displays, because they can cover the entire Roman Alphabet in upper case along with the numbers 0 to 9. The reason these two have been put together is that the only thing that differs between them is that the 16-segment LED has a break on the bottom and top bars, to enhance how some characters look.
  • Matrix – This is the most versatile kind of alphanumeric LED and handles both lower case and upper case versions of the alphabet, every number and even a wide range of symbols too.

RGB or Red Green Blue LEDs

RGB LEDs consist of red, green and blue emitters that enable the 3 colors to be combined in varying amounts to accurately produce different colors. With controllers now being incredibly sophisticated, there is almost no limit to the color combinations that can be utilized by RGB LEDs.

The majority use a common lead, like cathode or anode with a 4-pin connection. This is by far the longest connection used by any LED, as others tend to have a built-in electronic control unit and 2 leads.

RGB LEDs offer incredible control of the emitted colors to users, because electronic circuits are used to control the diffusion and mixing of colors. Therefore, RGB LEDs are used in various ways, as status indicators, accent lighting, for video display and light shows, to name but a few.

Bi-color and Tri-color LEDs

Inside a bi-color LED you will find 2 light-emitting dies and consists of 3 leads and a common cathode or anode. Bi-color LEDs use what is known as inverse parallel wiring, meaning one is backward and one is forward, which in turn, means only one die can be on at one time.

Color variation is produced when the flowing current alternates between the two dies. A third color can be produced if you alternate the flowing current at a very high frequency so it appears the two lights were on at the same time…

Similarly, tri-color LEDs consist of two light-emitting dies in one casing. The difference is, in a tri-color, there are 3 leads – 2 outer leads (common anodes for the LEDs) at either side of a central lead (common cathode or the LEDs). With this design, both dies can either be lit at the same time or separately, producing a third color.

Although the above describes the most common design using a cathode, there are tri-color types of LEDs are available with both common cathode and anode configurations.

Flashing LEDs

Flashing LEDs are normally used as a kind of attention-grabbing indicator. Although for the most part these types of LEDs may look like a standard LED from the outside, there is an integrated circuit that sits alongside the LED and flashes the appropriate light at particular frequencies.

Flashing LEDs are specifically designed to allow direct connection to a power supply without the need for a series resistor. They are often used on signs and in cars and other similar applications.

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1 comment

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Duncan Lance October 3, 2018 at 12:59 am

This was a very interesting read and I have to admit that I had no idea there were so many different kinds of LED lights. I am especially impressed by the bi-color LEDs that some signs use. That must come in real handy when you’re trying to switch between multiple colors on your sign or display.

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