Chalk up another reason to make the switch to high efficiency LED lighting: Scientists at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory have developed a graphite foam that extends the life of LED lights. The foam is used as a passive cooling element, which plays a critical role in the lifespan of LED components. The breakthrough could help lower the cost of LED’s and make them more attractive in the mass market.
A wholesale switch to high efficiency LED technology could be part of the solution to the conundrum posed by the coming wave of new electric vehicles, which is how to manage overall energy consumption (and carbon emissions) when millions of new electric car owners start charging up their vehicles.
LEDs and Temperature
LED stands for light emitting diode, which is a technology for producing light through a chemical reaction (in contrast, incandescent lights work by burning a filament). Though they use less electricity than conventional lights, one drawback is their sensitivity to temperature. According to Oak Ridge, each 10-degree decrease in the temperature of an LED can double its lifespan. For this reason, LEDs are designed with “heat sink” components usually made of copper or aluminum.
Advantages of Graphite Foam for Cooling LEDs
Graphite foam is a lightweight material with a distinctive graphite crystal structure (graphite is a form of carbon, by the way – same chemical elements but different structure). The structure “wicks” heat away from the source and conducts it away without the need for mechanical cooling. Compared to copper and aluminum components, graphite foam is lighter and easier to work with, admitting the possibility of designing cheaper but more effective cooling elements for LEDs.
Source: GO Media – Written by Tina Casey – Image (altered): Foam by James Cridland on flickr.com.