Whenever I discuss the pros and cons of LEDs, I’ll often touch on the various components inside and their purpose.
Because 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.
And while I’ve written many guides on the benefits of LED lighting compared to older tech, I’ve not done a full breakdown of the parts used within an LED.
So let’s do that now.
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?
LED lights aren’t incredibly complicated, but they are clever and offer many benefits compared to older technology such as incandescent bulbs.
Let’s start with the actual light-emitting diode itself. This 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, depending on the design, but they will all do the same job of giving off light when powered by a current.
The current must stay consistent. Too much power and the diode will be damaged.
Too little, and the light won’t function correctly, potentially flashing, which can be extremely irritating.
It is the reason why bulbs have a circuit with a component called an LED driver.
This LED driver is made up of capacitors to regulate the flow of electricity.
They convert the AC current to the lower voltage DC current that the diode requires, ensuring a steady supply that won’t overload the bulb.
The motherboard doesn’t just do the job of the driver, though – it 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.
That circuit is protected by the housing. That’s the middle section of the bulb, between the bulb base and the bulb cover.
This housing is usually aluminum-lined, with a metal plate acting as the heat sink. This is a vital part because it helps to draw heat away from the diode.
Without a good heat sink, your diodes will burn out much faster.
The current is carried into the bulb through the base. LED bulbs have a wide variety of bulb bases to fit different fixtures, so it’s just a case of shopping around to find the one you need.
They’re typically made from aluminum as it’s a lightweight and conductive material.
Finally, you have the bulb cover, which acts as a lens.
It absorbs the light from the diodes and then emits it equally, which is why your bulb looks like a much bigger light than just a couple of small diodes lit up.
Do RGB Diodes Have Different Components?
Color changing lights are slightly different because you need specific semiconductors to generate colored light.
These bulbs can create around 16 million shades of color, but they do this just with a handful of components, mixing together light just like you would paint to create the chosen shade.
You have probably come across the acronym RGB, which stands for “red, green, blue,” and a mix of these will give you whatever color you want.
So RGB diodes have different components because the semiconductors are made using different materials to generate those colors.
When current is passed through them at varying intensities, you get the mix of hue you want.
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.
What Is The LED Bulb Cover Made Of?
The LED bulb cover does so much more than act as a barrier to protect the delicate components inside. However, that is one important role it plays.
Firstly, let’s deal with the material involved. With many LEDs, the cover will be durable plastic.
However, if you buy a clear LED bulb, it may still be made of glass – clear LEDs are very much about style and that glass finish plays a part.
Others use a super-tough epoxy resin. Generally, though, the material is a lot less likely to shatter than older bulbs would.
Whatever the material, the 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.
A final point to make is on the color of the cover. Usually, it’s plain white, but LED bulb covers can be colored in a different shade.
It’s not as common in most light bulbs for the home, but LEDs have many uses.
Yes, you can achieve the same effect with RGB diodes inside a white cover, but that means paying extra for RGB lighting and having to set the color you want every time.
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.
That’s a full breakdown of the components of an LED bulb, the materials they’re made from, and why they are all important.
You should always buy your LED bulbs from a reputable brand because it’s very easy for costs to be cut on some of these internal components.
Low-cost LED drivers aren’t efficient at regulating current, so the diodes can burn out faster. At the same time, cheap heat sinks don’t draw enough heat away.
Avoid buying from China if you can, as often manufacturing there is unregulated, and while prices are very appealing, you may not get a safe bulb to use.
Paying a little extra for a bulb made with high-quality components will ensure you can enjoy the full long-life benefits LEDs give.