Overcoming High Brightness LED Manufacturing Challenges
On the 100th anniversary of Edison’s tungsten bulb, alternative lighting methods that use less energy and reduce pollution are gaining ground. Fluorescent (FL) or compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs save energy but also have drawbacks such as unnatural color that may not be pleasing to the eye or in the case of CFL bulbs in particular, they may not fit in recessed lighting fixtures. And perhaps the most important issue, both FL and CFL bulbs contain mercury, requiring special handling for bulb disposal after use.
On the horizon is a promising new technology, Light Emitting Diode (LED) devices that can provide a good replacement. First developed in the 1960s, LEDs came primarily in colors such as red or green. More recently, High Brightness LEDs have been developed that produce white light that is effective, pleasing to the eye and can be used in general lighting situations. High Brightness LEDs are now used to light-up new laptops, are in LED LCD TVs and are even used in the daylight running lights on the latest Nissan, Audi and Porsche cars.
LEDs for lighting fixtures are not yet readably available because of manufacturing challenges. LED production needs to mature to reach the quantities required to satisfy global lighting demands. Today’s manufacturing process is still essentially an ‘art form’, which is too expensive and unpredictable to produce at an appropriate price for commercial success. Some of the challenges are in gas-phase chemistry control, chamber cleanliness, dopant profiles, particulate management, control of thermal cycles and gas flow signatures.
In order for LED lighting to become a truly mass market product, solutions to these manufacturing challenges must be identified. Fortunately, many of these solutions can be derived from equipment and "best known methods" developed for semiconductor or integrated circuit manufacturing. As these advanced techniques are adopted, the LED industry will see greater output volume from its critical production tools with more high value High Brightness LED devices being produced.
The fast-growing LED market is at an important inflection point and one that I’ve been watching closely and writing about over the past few months — as well as one that I will continue to write about in the future. I welcome your questions, thoughts and opinions on this topic. Below are my previous blogs on LEDs that you might be interested in.