New graphite foam from ORNL improves LED lifespan

August 31, 2010

New grphite foam from ORNL improves LED lifespan The Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) has developed a graphite foam that “passively cools” components used in LED Lamps giving them longer life spans.  That’s good news for the customers of LED North America who just licensed the technology from ORNL.

The graphite foam, developed by Dr. James Klett of ORNL’s Material Science and Technology Division, is a lighter and cheaper alternative to using normal materials like copper and aluminum as heat sinks.  The foam has an unusual graphite structure full of air pockets.  The air pockets make the foam “only 25 percent dense and lightweight.”  Ligaments within the structure “wick heat away” cooling the components in LED lamps.

ORNL graphite foam closeup Reducing the temperature of LED components by 10 degrees C can double the lifespan of LED lamps.  Using the foam will allow lifespan increases and cheaper prices.  Longer lifespans and lower prices will improve adoption of low energy LEDs.  LED’s rated at 50,000 hrs can achieve 100,000 hr lifespans by using the graphite foam. 

LED North America primarily provides LED lighting for outdoor lighting like street lamps, parking lots and parking garages.  In other words, they provide LED lighting on a large scale.  For its customers, improved LED lifespans means lower overall costs.

"While this technology will reduce temperatures and increase the life of the LED lighting systems, what it will really do is save municipalities millions of dollars every year in replacement fixture costs as well as maintenance," Klett said.

LED lighting is not cheap.  LED North America sells replacement bulbs at rates ranging from $22.99 for one bulb with a 25,000 hr lifespan to $46.99 for a bulb with projected 40,000hr lifespan.  Multiply that by the bulbs needed for outdoor lighting in municipalities and large parking garages and it adds up.  By prolonging those bulb lifespans to 50,000 hr and 80,000 hr lifespans, costs go down.  Since the bulbs last longer fewer maintenance personnel are needed also decreasing costs.

As an added incentive to start using LED lighting now rather than wait for the foam to be incorporated into the lamps, LED North America is offering an “Upgrade Package” that will include the new technology when it becomes available. 

Sort of like offering special pricing for upgrades from Windows7 home premium to Windows7 professional.


Photo:  ORNL researcher James Klett with graphite foam provided by Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

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