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Glossary of Terms

Glossary of Terms

Glossary of LED Terms

This page defines common terms relating to solid-state lighting.

Solid-state lighting (SSL) technology uses semi-conducting materials to convert electricity into light. SSL is an umbrella term encompassing both light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and organic light emitting diodes (OLEDs).

Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are based on inorganic (non-carbon based) materials. An LED is a semi-conducting device that produces light when an electrical current flows through it. LEDs were first developed in the 1960s but were used only in indicator applications until recently.

Organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) are based on organic (carbon based) materials. In contrast to LEDs, which are small point sources, OLEDs are made in sheets which provide a diffuse area light source. OLED technology is developing rapidly and is increasingly used in display applications such as cell phones and PDA screens. However, OLEDs are still some years away from becoming a practical general illumination source. Additional advancements are needed in light output, color, efficiency, cost, and lifetime.

General illumination is a term used to distinguish between lighting that illuminates tasks, spaces, or objects from lighting used in indicator or purely decorative applications. In most cases, general illumination is provided by white light sources, including incandescent, fluorescent, high-intensity discharge sources, and white LEDs. Lighting used for indication or decoration is often monochromatic, as in traffic lights, exit signs, vehicle brake lights, signage, and holiday lights.

Luminous efficacy is the most commonly used measure of the energy efficiency of a light source. It is stated in lumens per watt (lm/W), indicating the amount of light a light source produces for each watt of electricity consumed. For white high-brightness LEDs, luminous efficacy published by LED manufacturers typically refers to the LED chip only, and doesn’t include driver losses. See more information in the Energy Efficiency section.

Correlated color temperature (CCT) is the measure used to describe the relative color appearance of a white light source. CCT indicates whether a light source appears more yellow/gold/orange or more blue, in terms of the range of available shades of “white.” CCT is given in kelvins (unit of absolute temperature). See more information in the Color Quality section.

Color rendering index (CRI) indicates how well a light source renders colors of people and objects, compared to a reference source. See more information in the Color Quality section.

RGB stands for red, green, and blue, the three primary colors of light. When the primaries are mixed, the resulting light appears white to the human eye. Mixing the light from red, green, and blue LEDs is one way to produce white light. The other approach is known as phosphor conversion [see below]. See more information in the Color Quality section.

Phosphor conversion is a method used to generate white light with LEDs. A blue or near-ultraviolet LED is coated with a yellow or multichromatic phosphor, resulting in white light. See more information in the Color Quality section.

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