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Thermal Clad  >> LED Thermal Management

LEDs come of Age
Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) have been around for years, primarily concentrated in such markets as cell phones, PDAs and other consumer electronics. Since most of these products have relatively short lifecycles, protecting LEDs was not of primary concern because the product would fail or become obsolete long before the LED failed. Today, as technological advancement in LED design and processes are continually boosting light output to rival incandescent, florescent and even halogen light sources, the need to protect the lamps against heat build-up is greater than ever before.

The Heat is ON
As is true for most electronic components, heat is the greatest threat to an LED. Not only can heat damage the electrical integrity of the LED, (eventually leading to lamp failure), it can also effect the light intensity and change the colour of the light output. The key to maintaining consistent, high-intensity output over an extended period of time is state-of-the-art thermal management materials such as T-Clad™ Insulated Metal Substrates (IMS®).

How It Works
In a typical LED configuration (Figure 1), heat generated by the LRD lamp is transferred to the base metal through the dielectric layer. However, most dielectrics selected for this purpose have little or no thermal conductivity to move heat away from the assembly and into the heat spreader (the metal base). Often referred to as enhanced dielectric, T-Clad™ minimises thermal impedance and conducts heat more effectively and efficiently than standard printed circuit boards (see Figure 2).

Case History
Figure 3 shows the lifetime expectations for a sign illuminated with white InGaN/SiC LEDs at varying LED currents. In this application, the rated performance of the LED would only yield 4 years of life. By modifying the thermal management system and adjusting current to the LED, the customer obtained a slightly lower initial brightness but extended the useable lifetime to 11 years.
T-Clad™ Anatomy
T-Clad™ insulated metal substrates are comprised of a circuit layer, a thermally enhanced dielectric layer and a metal substrate (see Figure 4). The key to T-Clad's superior performance lies in its dielectric layer. This layer offers electrical isolation with high thermal conductivity and bonds the base metal and circuit foil together. Other manufacturers use reinforced fiberglass or pressure sensitive adhesive (PSA) as a dielectric layer, but none of them provide the high thermal conductivity and resulting thermal performance required to help assure the lowest possible operating temperatures and brightest light output for high-intensity LEDs.
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