A Journey through the Evolution of LED Lighting Technology

In the mid-20th century, the first LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) were developed. LEDs are highly efficient, long-lasting, and can produce a wide range of colors. Today, LEDs are widely used for everything from lighting homes and businesses to powering digital displays.

The history of LED invention dates back to the early 20th century when the first research on semiconductors was conducted.

The first visible-spectrum LED was invented in 1962 by Nick Holonyak Jr., a scientist at General Electric Company. Holonyak's LED used a semiconductor made of gallium arsenide phosphide, which emitted a red light when an electric current was passed through it.

In the years following Holonyak's invention, other researchers continued to experiment with different materials and processes to create LEDs that emitted light in different colors. In 1972, M. George Craford, also of General Electric, invented the first yellow LED, followed by green and amber LEDs in 1976.

The invention of the blue LED in the early 1990s was a significant breakthrough, as it allowed for the creation of white light using a combination of Red, Green, and Blue LEDs. This breakthrough was achieved by Shuji Nakamura, a researcher at Nichia Corporation in Japan. Nakamura's blue LED used a semiconductor made of gallium nitride, which emitted blue light when an electric current was passed through it (Picture 1).

 Picture 1: The inventors of LED lamps (Copyright: edisontechcenter.org)

The invention of the blue LED also paved the way for the development of high-efficiency white LEDs, which are now used in a wide range of applications, including lighting, displays, and electronics. Today, LEDs are one of the most efficient and long-lasting forms of lighting available, and they are used in a variety of settings, from homes and offices to outdoor advertising and automotive lighting.

LED Lamp Design

In addition to improvements in LED technology, designers have also been working to create LED lamps that are both functional and aesthetically pleasing. LED lamps come in a wide range of shapes and sizes, from traditional bulb-shaped lamps to flat, panel-style lamps (Picture 2).

 Picture 2: Different Type of LEDs

One of the biggest advantages of LED lamps is their versatility. LEDs can be easily shaped and molded, allowing designers to create lamps in a variety of shapes and sizes. This has led to the development of LED lamps that are both functional and artistic, with designs ranging from sleek and modern to whimsical and playful.

LED lamps manufacturing process (briefly)

To make a white LED, we first need to create a tiny piece called the LED chip. This chip is made of special materials that can create light when electricity passes through them.

Next, we put a special coating on the LED chip called a phosphor. This coating helps change the color of the light so that it appears white instead of blue.

Finally, we put everything together in a little package that protects the LED chip and lets us connect it to power. This package is made of materials that can withstand high temperatures and keep the LED chip safe.

Can we say it in a technical way?!

The manufacturing technology of white LED involves several steps, including the production of the LED chip, the application of a phosphor coating, and the assembly of the LED package. The following is an overview of each step in the manufacturing process.

Production of the LED Chip:

The first step in manufacturing a white LED is to produce the LED chip. LED chips are made from a semiconductor material, such as gallium nitride (GaN) or indium gallium nitride (InGaN). The semiconductor material is grown on a substrate, typically made of sapphire or silicon carbide, using a process called epitaxy.

During epitaxy, the semiconductor material is deposited in thin layers onto the substrate, using a process called chemical vapor deposition (CVD). The layers are then doped with impurities, which alter the electrical properties of the semiconductor material and create p-type and n-type regions. Once the layers have been deposited and doped, the chip is cut from the substrate and the electrodes are added to create the anode (+) and cathode (-) of the LED (Picture 3).


Picture 3: The product process of an LED chip

Application of Phosphor Coating:
After the LED chip has been produced, a phosphor coating is applied to the surface of the chip. The phosphor coating is used to convert the blue light emitted by the LED chip into white light (Picture 4).

Picture 4: The phosphor is used to convert the Blue light of the LED to White color

The phosphor coating is typically made of a mixture of rare-earth elements, such as cerium, europium, and terbium, and a binder material, such as silicone or epoxy. The phosphor mixture is applied to the surface of the LED chip using a process called screen printing.

During screen printing, a stencil is placed over the LED chip, and the phosphor mixture is forced through the stencil and onto the surface of the chip. The phosphor coating is then cured, typically by heating the LED chip in an oven.

Assembly of the LED Package:

The final step in manufacturing a white LED is to assemble the LED package. The LED package consists of the LED chip, phosphor coating, and a housing that protects the chip and allows for electrical connections to be made.

The housing is typically made of a ceramic material, such as aluminum oxide (Al2O3) or aluminum nitride (AlN), and is designed to dissipate heat and protect the LED chip from moisture and other environmental factors.

The LED chip and phosphor coating are mounted onto the housing using a process called die bonding, and the electrical connections are made using wire bonding or flip-chip bonding (Pictures 5 & 6). Once the LED package has been assembled, it is tested for quality and performance before being packaged for distribution.


Picture 5: Die bonding technology process of an LED chip


Picture 6: Die bonding technology process of an LED chip on Wafer


The most common types of LED packages:

  • LED chips: These are the smallest and simplest form of LED, consisting of a semiconductor chip mounted on a small substrate. LED chips are typically used in high-power applications and require additional packaging to protect them from damage and provide heat dissipation.
  • Dual In-Line Package (DIP) LEDs: They are one of the earliest form of LEDs manufactured that commonly used in the manufacturing of applications such as electronic displays, indicator lights, and backlighting. DIP LEDs are a type of through-hole LED, meaning that they are mounted by inserting their leads through holes on a printed circuit board (PCB) and soldering them in place (Picture 7).

In recent years, the popularity of DIP LEDs has declined as more efficient and versatile LED technologies, such as SMD (#3) and COB (#7) LEDs, have become available. However, DIP LEDs are still used in some specific applications, such as in retrofits for existing equipment, due to their ease of use and familiarity among manufacturers.

Picture 7: The DIP LED illustration

  • Surface Mount Device (SMD) LEDs: These are small LED packages that are mounted onto circuit boards using surface-mount technology. SMD LEDs are commonly used in consumer electronics, automotive lighting, and general lighting applications (Picture 8).
Picture 8: The SMD LED illustration

  • LED modules: LED modules are made up of multiple LED chips mounted on a board or substrate. They are typically used in signage, architectural lighting, and other applications where a high level of brightness is required (Picture 9).
Picture 9: The linear LED board illustration
    • LED strips: LED strips consist of a flexible circuit board with multiple SMD LEDs mounted on it. They are commonly used for accent lighting, curved fixtures, backlighting, and decorative lighting applications (Picture 10).

    Picture 10: The LED strip roll

    • Chip-on-Board (COB) LEDs: COB LEDs consist of multiple LED chips mounted directly onto a substrate, resulting in a higher light output than traditional SMD LEDs. They are commonly used in high-power applications such as street lighting and industrial lighting (Picture 11).
    Picture 11: COB LED illustration


    • High Bay LEDs: High Bay LEDs are designed for high-ceiling applications such as warehouses, manufacturing plants, and gymnasiums. They are typically mounted on a heat sink and provide high levels of brightness with efficient heat dissipation (Picture 12).

    Picture 12: High Bay LED illustration

    PROS and Cons of LEDS:

    From energy savings to color tuning, LED lighting has quickly become a popular choice for a wide range of applications. However, there are also drawbacks to consider when deciding if LED lighting is right for your needs. LED lighting has revolutionized the way we think about illumination, but it's not without its challenges. Here is what you need to know about the pros and cons of this cutting-edge technology.


    • High Efficacy: LED lamps have higher efficacy than traditional lighting technologies, which means they produce more light per watt of energy consumed. This is due to their ability to convert a higher percentage of energy into visible light, rather than heat.
    • Directional Lighting: LED lamps emit light in a specific direction, which makes them more efficient for certain applications, such as task lighting or outdoor lighting. This allows for better control of the light and reduces the need for additional optics. In other hand, We can adjust the beam angle of LED lights by using the specific diffuser to control the light direction (Picture 13).
    Picture 13: The direction of light in LEDs Vs. Fluorescent lamps


    • Color Temperature Control: LED lamps offer precise control over the color temperature of the light they emit. This is because they can be manufactured to emit light at specific wavelengths, which can be mixed to produce a wide range of colors and color temperatures (Picture 14).
    Picture 14: Light Visible Spectrum


    • Instant On/Off: LED lamps can be turned on and off instantly without any warm-up time (unlike Fluorescent lamps). This makes them ideal for applications where immediate illumination is required, such as in security lighting.
    • Long Lifespan: LED lamps have a much longer lifespan than traditional lighting technologies, which reduces the need for frequent replacements. This is due to their solid-state design, which is more durable than the filament or gas-filled bulbs used in incandescent and fluorescent lamps.
    • High Color Rendering Index (CRI): CRI is a measure of how accurately a light source reproduces colors compared to natural light. LED lamps have a higher CRI compared to traditional lighting technologies, which means they can accurately reproduce colors and details in objects. Look at the color can be seen in a strawberry in different CRI (Picture 15).
    Picture 15: The different CRI affects the color saturation we see on strawberry


    • Solid-State Lighting: LED lamps are a type of solid-state lighting (SSL) technology, which means they use semiconductors to emit light. This contrasts with traditional lighting technologies, which use filaments or gas-filled tubes to produce light.
    • Dimmable: LED lamps can be dimmed using Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) or Constant Current Reduction dimming (CCR) methods. PWM is a method of controlling the brightness of the LED by adjusting the duty cycle of a high-frequency signal, while CCR dimming reduces the current flowing through the LED to dim it. The new LED technologies can be dimmed to 1% or less to 0.1% (Dim-to-Off), (Picture 16).
          Picture 16: How we can control the LED light brightness


          • Color Tunable: LED lamps can be designed to be color tunable, which means they can emit light at different color temperatures (Picture 17). This can be done by mixing different colored LEDs or by using a single LED with a phosphor coating that emits light at different wavelengths.
          Picture 17: The different color range of LED (CCT), (2200K - 10,000K)


          • Low Heat Emission: LED lamps emit less heat compared to traditional lighting technologies, which means they can be used in applications where heat-sensitive materials or objects are present. This is due to their ability to convert more of the energy they consume into visible light, rather than heat.



            • Higher Upfront Cost: LED lamps can have a higher upfront cost compared to traditional lighting technologies such as fluorescent and incandescent bulbs. While the cost of LED lamps has decreased over time, they may still be more expensive initially and specifically color LEDs.
            • Limited Dimming Options: While LED lamps can be dimmed, they may not work with all types of dimmer switches. Some LED lamps may flicker or emit a buzzing sound when dimmed, which can be a nuisance.
            • Blue Light Hazard: LED lamps emit a high amount of blue light, which can be harmful to the eyes and disrupt sleep patterns. Some LED lamps are designed to emit warmer colors to reduce the risk of blue light hazard.
            • Heat Sensitivity: LED lamps are sensitive to heat and can experience reduced performance or even failure if they overheat. This can be an issue in applications where the LED lamps are exposed to high temperatures or poor ventilation.
            • Limited Color Rendering: Some LED lamps may have limited color rendering capabilities, which can affect the appearance of objects and colors in a room. It's important to choose LED lamps with high color rendering index (CRI) values to ensure accurate color reproduction.
            • Environmental Concerns: While LED lamps are more energy-efficient and have a longer lifespan than traditional lighting technologies, they still contain electronic components and materials that can be harmful to the environment if not properly disposed of. LED lamps should be recycled at the end of their lifespan to minimize their environmental impact.
            • Efficiency: While LED lamps are more efficient than traditional lighting technologies, they can still experience reduced efficiency over time due to factors such as heat buildup, aging of the LED chips, and driver failures. This can result in decreased light output and higher energy consumption over the lifespan of the LED lamp.
            • Optics: LED lamps often require additional optics, such as lenses or reflectors, to direct the light where it is needed. However, poor optics can result in uneven illumination, glare, and wasted light. Additionally, some LED lamps have a narrow beam angle, which can be a disadvantage in applications where a wide area needs to be illuminated.
            • Uneven Current Diffusion: LED lamps rely on an even diffusion of current across the LED chips to ensure consistent light output. However, poor design or manufacturing processes can result in uneven current diffusion, which can lead to hot spots, reduced lifespan, and reduced overall efficiency.

            It's worth noting that LED technology is constantly evolving, and many of these disadvantages are being addressed through improved design, manufacturing processes, and new technologies. While LED lamps may have some disadvantages, they still offer many benefits over traditional lighting technologies, such as longer lifespan, higher efficiency, and lower energy consumption.

            RGB LEDs (Color LEDs)

            RGB LEDs (Red – Green – Blue) light emitting diodes, have revolutionized the world of lighting and display technology. These LEDs are widely used in a range of applications, from indoor and outdoor lighting to signage and electronic displays.

            The technology of RGB LEDs are based on the principle of electroluminescence, which refers to the emission of light from a material when an electric current is passed through it. The three primary colors of light (Red, Green, Blue) can be produced by using different semiconductor materials in the LED structure. Each material emits light at a specific wavelength, which determines the color of light produced (Picture 18).

            Picture 18: Light Spectrum (different wavelength of different colors)

            In general, by varying the intensity of each of the three primary colors, it is possible to create a wide range of intermediate colors and color temperatures, as well as customized colors for any lighting application (Picture 19).

            Picture 19: Spectral colors (how combining primary colors create different colors)

            The structure of an RGB LED typically consists of three separate semiconductor materials, each with a different bandgap energy that determines the color of light produced. These materials are arranged in layers, with the blue-emitting layer at the bottom, followed by the green-emitting layer, and finally the red-emitting layer at the top (Picture 20). When a voltage is applied across the layers, electrons and holes are injected into the semiconductor materials, which then combine to produce light at the respective wavelengths.

            Picture 20: The different layers of RGB LED illustration

             To achieve a full spectrum of colors, RGB LEDs are typically combined with a control circuit that adjusts the relative intensity of each color. This allows for a wide range of colors to be produced, from deep reds and blues to bright greens and yellows.

            Manufacturing Process of RGB LEDs The manufacturing process of RGB LEDs is a complex and precise process that requires advanced semiconductor manufacturing techniques. The process typically starts with the growth of the semiconductor materials used in the LED structure, which are typically made using a process called metal-organic chemical vapor deposition (MOCVD). This involves the deposition of a thin film of the semiconductor material onto a substrate, which is then heated to form a crystal structure.

            Once the semiconductor materials have been grown, they are processed into individual LED dies using a series of photolithography, etching, and metallization steps. This involves patterning the semiconductor material into the desired shape, adding electrical contacts, and attaching the LED die to a substrate.

            The final step in the manufacturing process involves assembling the individual RGB LEDs into a larger device, such as a light bulb or electronic display. This typically involves bonding the individual LED dies to a common substrate, adding control circuitry and optics, and encapsulating the device in a protective material.

            RGB LEDs Application

            RGB LEDs have a wide range of applications, from decorative lighting to high-end electronic displays. Some common applications of RGB LEDs include:

            • Indoor and Outdoor Lighting: RGB LEDs are commonly used in residential and commercial lighting applications, such as accent lighting, mood lighting, and decorative lighting.
            • Electronic Displays: RGB LEDs are widely used in electronic displays, such as LCD TVs, computer monitors, and smartphones. They are also used in large-scale electronic displays, such as billboards and outdoor signage.
            • Automotive Lighting: RGB LEDs are increasingly being used in automotive lighting, such as headlamps and taillights, due to their high efficiency and low power consumption (Picture 21).

              Picture 21: the car interior illuminated around with the color LEDs

              • Gaming Peripherals: RGB LEDs are commonly used in gaming peripherals, such as keyboards and mice, to provide customizable lighting effects (Picture 22).

              Picture 22: How color LEDs around the TV change the mood of environment to simulate the gaming vibes

              • Concerts: RGB LEDs are increasingly being used in the music industry to enhance live performances and creates immersive lighting effects that can synchronize with the rhythm and mood of the music. Currently, many concert stages use RGB LEDs to create dynamic lighting displays that change colors and patterns throughout the performance (Picture 23).

              Picture 23: How color LEDs synchronize the rhythm and mood of the music

              • Architectural Buildings: The aim is to enhance the beauty and functionality of buildings. RGB LEDs can be used to highlight architectural features, create dynamic lighting displays, and even serve as a safety feature. For example, RGB LEDs can be used to highlight the curves and lines of a building's facade, creating a dramatic and visually stunning effect. In addition, RGB LEDs can be used as a safety feature, providing lighting in areas that are typically dimly lit or hard to see (Picture 24).

              Picture 24: Rogers Arena building is illuminated with color LEDs (in the downtown area of Vancouver, Canada)

              • Museums: RGB LEDs are commonly used in museums to enhance the visitor experience and create immersive displays. They can also be used to highlight specific features of the exhibits, such as artwork or artifacts, creating a sense of drama and importance (Picture 25).

              Picture 25: The RED and Yellow LED lights illuminate the historic statues in Metropolitan Museum of Art (NYC, USA, 2018)

              Smart LED Lighting

              Another recent development in LED lighting is the rise of smart LED lighting systems. Smart LED lighting systems allow users to control their lights using a smartphone app, voice commands, or a smart home assistant like Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant.

              Smart lighting systems offer a range of benefits, including the ability to adjust the brightness and color of the lights, set schedules, and control multiple lights from a single device. They also offer energy savings, as users can turn off lights when they are not in use and can set schedules to ensure lights are only on when needed.