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What Materials Make Up An LED Bulb?

Whenever I discuss the pros and cons of LEDs, I’ll often touch on the various components inside, and their purpose.

Each component in an LED light plays its part to make them energy-efficient, long-lasting, and safe. They all have an important job in making LED technology the future of home lighting.

So let’s do a summary of the LED light material list, and what each part does.

As well as the LED chip which generates the light, LEDs consist of a bulb cover, which acts as a lens; a heat sink to draw heat away from the diodes; a circuit with a driver to control the current; housing, to protect the circuit; and a base to connect the bulb to fixtures.

In this article, let’s explore:

  • The components used in LEDs in a little more detail
  • Whether RGB diodes have different components
  • What LED bulb covers are made from

What Components Are Used In LEDs?

internal bulbs componentst

LED light bulbs all contain the same standard components:

  • A single diode, or an array of multiple LED chips
  • An LED driver
  • A heat sink
  • A bulb cover
  • Bulb housing
  • A bulb base

LED Chips/Diodes

The light emitting diode is the part of the bulb that generates the light, and it’s made up of semiconductors that emit light when a current passes through.

A bulb might have one diode or multiple, which is called an LED array. They will all do the same job of giving off light when powered by a current.

LED Drivers

The job of the driver in an LED light bulb is to control the electrical current – stepping it down from AC to DC, and maintaining a consistent level to avoid damaging the lights.

LED lighting isn’t like older incandescent bulbs that work on the AC power of your home circuit board. You need it to be changed to DC – which is what the driver does.

It’s part of a circuit that also tells the bulb when to switch on and off and, if your bulb is on a dimmer circuit, it regulates the brightness of the diodes.

Heat Sink

A heat sink is an extremely important part of your LED lighting. Light emitting diodes don’t work well with high temperatures, so the heat produced by the lights needs to be diverted away.

LED light bulbs are much more efficient than traditional light bulbs, in that most of the energy is converted into light output.

Without a good heat sink, the lights will burn out way too fast.

Bulb Cover

The bulb cover acts as a lens for your LED lighting. It helps to diffuse the LED light output across a wider space – so instead of seeing a tiny chip-sized light, you get a full glowing bulb.

Some LED bulbs now have clear covers, to look more like older incandescent light bulbs – this is just a design choice.

Unlike some older lights, such as compact fluorescent lighting, there’s no gas inside the cover. If the cover cracks, the bulb is typically still good to use.


The housing is the middle section of your LED bulbs, and its job is to protect the circuitry inside.

It’s usually aluminum-lined, and it contains a metal plate which is the heat sink to draw heat away from the diodes.

Bulb Base

The base is the part of the light bulb that connects to the light fixture. LED bulb bases for standard bulbs are the same as older lights, with a range of sizes and styles available depending on the design of the bulb.

You can also get all kinds of LED shapes – including spotlights, and LED tubing to replace older fluorescent lighting. They’ll still have the same bases needed to fit into the fixture.

Do RGB LED Lights Have Different Components?

varios color diodes

RGB lights tend to have most of the same components as regular LED lighting but with different diodes. These diodes have the semiconductors needed to produce different colors of light:

  • Aluminum Gallium Indium Phosphide (AlGaAs) creates red, orange, and yellow colors of high brightness.
  • Gallium Phosphide (GaP) tends to be your ‘G’ of RGB – it creates yellow and green shades.
  • Indium Gallium Nitride (InGaN) is used to create some greens but mainly blues and ultraviolet colors.

In some LEDs, Aluminum Gallium Arsenide is used for red and infrared colors too.

By blending the visible light output of these different semiconductors, your lights can create up to 16 million colors.

However, they don’t always produce white light in the most accurate way – some bulbs will have an additional diode just for white light, too.

What Materials Are Used In LED Bulb Cover?

external components of the bulb

LED bulb covers are usually made using durable plastic, but are sometimes made from glass or a tough epoxy resin.

The plastic used is extremely hard-wearing, and it’s less likely to break than a glass bulb. Epoxy resin does a similar job but is even more robust.

Some glass bulbs are still made to resemble older incandescent bulbs, and these are more at risk of breakage, but they should be fine if you’re careful with them.

Clear Or Frosted?

Whatever the material, the LED lamp cover can be clear or frosted. When frosted, the cover also acts as a diffuser.

This means it refracts the light generated by the diodes in many different directions, so rather than seeing a small dot or multiple dots of light inside the cover, you just get one consistent, equal light.

Generally, it’s only glass bulbs that are clear – they’ll have diodes that are shaped to look like older filaments, for that retro style.

Cover Color

Most LED bulb covers are white, but they can sometimes be colored in a different shade.

It’s not as common in most light bulbs for the home to be non-white, but LEDs have many uses.

An RGB light source will still use a white cover – it’ll just be translucent enough to allow the different shades to shine through.

If the bulb has a specific requirement to be one color, it’s cheaper and easier to use a colored cover with a plain white diode inside.

You can even paint a bulb cover yourself.

Final Words

So that’s all the components of an LED – solid state lighting isn’t super complex, but there are a few parts inside that are worth understanding.

When your LED lighting products have any issues, you might now be able to diagnose the problem a little easier – are the heat sinks not providing proper thermal management, has the driver circuit failed to control the input power etc.

But I’ve written a guide on the most common problems with LED lighting if you still need help.

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