LEDs are produced in a variety of shapes and sizes. The color of the plastic lens is often the same as the actual color of light emitted, but not always. For instance, purple plastic is often used for infrared LEDs, and most blue devices have colorless housings. Modern high-power LEDs such as those used for lighting and backlighting are generally found in surface-mount technology (SMT) packages (not shown).
The main types of LEDs are miniature, high-power devices, and custom designs such as alphanumeric or multicolor.
These are mostly single-die LEDs used as indicators, and they come in various sizes from 2 mm to 8 mm, through-hole and surface mount packages. They usually do not use a separate heat sink. Typical current ratings range from around 1 mA to above 20 mA. The small size sets a natural upper boundary on power consumption due to heat caused by the high current density and need for a heat sink. Often daisy chained as used in LED tapes.
Common package shapes include round, with a domed or flat top, rectangular with a flat top (as used in bar-graph displays), and triangular or square with a flat top. The encapsulation may also be clear or tinted to improve contrast and viewing angle.
Researchers at the University of Washington have invented the thinnest LED. It is made of two-dimensional (2-D) flexible materials. It is three atoms thick, which is 10 to 20 times thinner than three-dimensional (3-D) LEDs and is also 10,000 times smaller than the thickness of a human hair. These 2-D LEDs are going to make it possible to create smaller, more energy-efficient lighting, optical communication and nano lasers.
There are three main categories of miniature single die LEDs:
Typically rated for 2 mA at around 2 V (approximately 4 mW consumption)
20 mA LEDs (ranging from approximately 40 mW to 90 mW) at around:
•1.9 to 2.1 V for red, orange, yellow, and traditional green
•3.0 to 3.4 V for pure green and blue
•2.9 to 4.2 V for violet, pink, purple and white
20 mA at approximately 2 or 4–5 V, designed for viewing in direct sunlight
5 V and 12 V LEDs are ordinary miniature LEDs that incorporate a suitable series resistor for direct connection to a 5 V or 12 V supply.
High-power LEDs (HP-LEDs) or high-output LEDs (HO-LEDs) can be driven at currents from hundreds of mA to more than an ampere, compared with the tens of mA for other LEDs. Some can emit over a thousand lumens. LED power densities up to 300 W/cm2 have been achieved. Since overheating is destructive, the HP-LEDs must be mounted on a heat sink to allow for heat dissipation. If the heat from an HP-LED is not removed, the device fails in seconds. One HP-LED can often replace an incandescent bulb in a flashlight, or be set in an array to form a powerful LED lamp.
Some well-known HP-LEDs in this category are the Nichia 19 series, Lumileds Rebel Led, Osram Opto Semiconductors Golden Dragon, and Cree X-lamp. As of September 2009, some HP-LEDs manufactured by Cree now exceed 105 lm/W.
Examples for Haitz’s law—which predicts an exponential rise in light output and efficacy of LEDs over time—are the CREE XP-G series LED, which achieved 105 lm/W in 2009 and the Nichia 19 series with a typical efficacy of 140 lm/W, released in 2010.
LEDs developed by Seoul Semiconductor can operate on AC power without a DC converter. For each half-cycle, part of the LED emits light and part is dark, and this is reversed during the next half-cycle. The efficacy of this type of HP-LED is typically 40 lm/W. A large number of LED elements in series may be able to operate directly from line voltage. In 2009, Seoul Semiconductor released a high DC voltage LED, named as ‘Acrich MJT’, capable of being driven from AC power with a simple controlling circuit. The low-power dissipation of these LEDs affords them more flexibility than the original AC LED design.
Flashing LEDs are used as attention seeking indicators without requiring external electronics. Flashing LEDs resemble standard LEDs but they contain an integrated multivibrator circuit that causes the LED to flash with a typical period of one second. In diffused lens LEDs, this circuit is visible as a small black dot. Most flashing LEDs emit light of one color, but more sophisticated devices can flash between multiple colors and even fade through a color sequence using RGB color mixing.
Bi-color LEDs contain two different LED emitters in one case. There are two types of these. One type consists of two dies connected to the same two leads antiparallel to each other. Current flow in one direction emits one color, and current in the opposite direction emits the other color. The other type consists of two dies with separate leads for both dies and another lead for common anode or cathode so that they can be controlled independently. The most common bi-color combination is red/traditional green, however, other available combinations include amber/traditional green, red/pure green, red/blue, and blue/pure green.
Tri-color LEDs contain three different LED emitters in one case. Each emitter is connected to a separate lead so they can be controlled independently. A four-lead arrangement is typical with one common lead (anode or cathode) and an additional lead for each color.
RGB LEDs are tri-color LEDs with red, green, and blue emitters, in general using a four-wire connection with one common lead (anode or cathode). Others, however, have only two leads (positive and negative) and have a built-in electronic control unit.
Decorative-multicolor LEDs incorporate several emitters of different colors supplied by only two lead-out wires. Colors are switched internally by varying the supply voltage.
Alphanumeric LEDs are available in seven-segment, starburst, and dot-matrix format. Seven-segment displays handle all numbers and a limited set of letters. Starburst displays can display all letters. Dot-matrix displays typically use 5×7 pixels per character. Seven-segment LED displays were in widespread use in the 1970s and 1980s, but rising use of liquid crystal displays, with their lower power needs and greater display flexibility, has reduced the popularity of numeric and alphanumeric LED displays.
Digital RGB Addressable LEDs are RGB LEDs that contain their own “smart” control electronics. In addition to power and ground, these provide connections for data-in, data-out, and sometimes a clock or strobe signal. These are connected in a daisy chain, with the data in of the first LED sourced by a microprocessor, which can control the brightness and color of each LED independently of the others. They are used where a combination of maximum control and minimum visible electronics are needed such as strings for Christmas and LED matrices. Some even have refresh rates in the kHz range, allowing for basic video applications. These devices are also known by their part number (WS2812 being the most common) or a brand name such as NeoPixel
An LED filament consists of multiple LED chips connected in series on a common longitudinal substrate that forms a thin rod reminiscent of a traditional incandescent filament. These are being used as a low-cost decorative alternative for traditional light bulbs that are being phased out in many countries. The filaments require a rather high voltage to light to nominal brightness, allowing them to work efficiently and simply with mains voltages. Often a simple rectifier and capacitive current limiting are employed to create a low-cost replacement for a traditional light bulb without the complexity of the low voltage, high current converter that single die LEDs need. Usually, they are packaged in a sealed enclosure with a shape similar to lamps they were designed to replace (e.g. a bulb) and filled with inert nitrogen or carbon dioxide gas to remove heat efficiently.
Quote from Wikipedia.