Ceramic LED Lights: Substantially Lowering Manufacturing Costs
Keeping LEDs Cool
To enable today’s LED lighting engines to achieve their highly touted life-spans, their operating temperatures must be kept within specifications, commonly 90⁰c. Thermal management must be fully engineered to either passively, (through ‘wicking’ heat sinks) or actively cooling the LED during operation (diaphragm air pumps or fans).
Much like computer processors, LEDs must be cooled when being ‘over clocked’. Many of the same cooling technologies carry over to LED lighting. The most common LED heatsink material today is aluminum. Although copper offers much better conductivity and heat dissipation than aluminum, aluminum is substantially cheaper to work with and is easily recyclable.
Some newer heatsink designs include liquid cooled or radiator style to effectively keep junction temperatures low.
Enter Today’s High-Tech Ceramic Heat-sinks
Although not new technology (available for the last few years in LED lighting products), advancements in high heat ceramic fabrication are allowing direct bonding of circuitry and light engines, to ceramic heat sinks. This removes thermal barriers that can reduce cooling capacity.
Unlike copper or aluminum, ceramic is in abundant supply and has very low material/production cost and has a low environmental/carbon footprint compared to aluminum production/smeltering. At the products’ end of life, ceramic bulb bodies require no special recycling or disposal and are safe for the environment.
Ceramics (and thermoplastic), do not conduct electricity and add an additional element of safety for consumers. Aluminum conducts electricity and can potentially create a shock hazard.
Most common household lights are already available in the LED ceramic version for MR16 and GU 10. Even a LED 60 watt replacement bulb with a ceramic base (instead of aluminum) is becoming more common as manufactures find increasing ways to bring the cost of LEDs down to where ‘mass adoption’ becomes possible.
According to manufacturer specifications, ceramic products tend to have a working life span of around 35,000 hours compared to the 40,000 to 50,000 hours from a similar aluminum model. Still, compared to 2000 hour lifespan of a standard incandescent/halogen light, 35,000 hours is fairly remarkable.
Ceramic bases could also be more fragile than aluminum, ceramic can crack when dropped or impacted.
Common Household Ceramic LED Lighting Bulbs for $7-$10
While still using the best light engines available, utilizing ceramic substrate/heatsink technology, ceramic production techniques offer substantially lower-cost product. The golden $10 mark is the estimated price in which consumers will warm to LED technology. Advancements in high-tech, ceramic substrates are one of the key components that potentially could lower the cost of LED replacement bulbs to reach that goal.
Contributed by Rob Huston