EducationLED Diode Definition - Construction, Characteristics and Applications

LED Diode Definition – Construction, Characteristics and Applications

Category articles

LED Diode


led diode definition

Light-emitting diode (LED, LED diode) – type of semiconductor diode, that also belongs to the category of optoelectronic components. Typical LED’s construction is based on “p-n semiconductor crystal junction” (more about “p-n junction” here)After LED has been polarized by positive electric voltage (forward-bias) that exceeds it’s threshold voltage value, it will start emiting electromagnetic radiation in the visible and infrared light spectrum.

led diode
Fig. 1. LED symbol

LED Construction

Color and wavelength of light radiation emitted by LEDs are closely connected to the semiconductor material from which it was produced.  Usually, they are manufactured from compounds (bicomponents and multicomponents) of chemical elements from 3rd and 5th group of the Mendeleev’s Periodic Table (for example, GaAs – gallium arsenide, GaP – gallium phosphide, GaAsP – arseno-phosphide gallium with right-doping). Elemental composition of the diode is assorted in a way that semiconductor structure obtained in the process will allow the emission of light in the desired spectral range. “p-n junctions” of LEDs with GaAs are mostly produced with a diffusion technique. It ensures a high quantum efficiency. Group of interconnected diodes are used in various types of displays for example in seven-segment displays.

LED Division based on the color of light radiation

Color Wavelenght λ [nm]
Ultraviolet (UV) < 380
Violet 380 – 435
Blue 435 – 500
Blue-Green 500 – 520
Green 520 -565
Yellow 565 – 590
Orange 590 – 625
Red 625 – 700
Infrared (IR) > 700

Smooth change of wavelength is accompanied by analogous change in color. In the table above we’ve put ranges of  wavelength values in length-order to improve envision of the relation between wavelength and diode color.

LED Current voltage characteristics

The LED characteristics show that the color of the diode affects the power consumed by that LED. LEDs emitting infrared color consume the least amount of power, where white color consumes the most. This is because different diodes have different threshold voltages. You can see that on the LED characteristics shown below.

LED characteristics
Fig. 2. The group of the current-voltage LED characteristics showing differences in threshold voltages in different LED colors

LED forward voltage

The assortment of the qualities of this light emitting diode family is very wide and at the present time there’s not any decent approach to narrow down them and technologically “reduce” them to an even far more explicit and quantifiable form. Nevertheless they are somewhat restricted (narrowed) and embraced ordinary values ​​by dividing the LEDs in to classes, choosing the color of the light since the standard for your branch.

LED Forward voltage would be the minimum voltage in which an LED starts to shine because of current stream. Advice on the most forward current characterizing confirmed diode are seen from the catalogue notes, nonetheless it’s difficult, particularly if we don’t know the source of the diode, since you can find no manufacturer’s mark on the LED. An average of LEDs are going to have maximum forward current of 20-30mA, however many conventional LEDs (having a lens) excel well at under 10mA, many commonly 2-3mA. The LED forward voltage in the diode is dependent upon the tone of the lighting, and so on the material it’s constructed from.

LED Principle of operation

The operating principle of Light-emitting diode is based on the electroluminescence phenomenon (producing electromagnetic radiation under the influence of the electric field). Electroluminescence occurs as a result of recombination (annihilation) pair of carriers (electrons and electron holes) in the area of the “p-n junction”. While electrons flow from higher to a lower energy-level, power dissipation occurs as a heat (non-radiative recombination – at semiconductors with n-oblique energy gap) or light (radiative recombination – semiconductors with a simple energy gap). During this flow, electron energy is converted into a quantum of electromagnetic radiation.

Flexible LED displays

The dynamic development of electronics that we are witnessing today would not be possible without simultaneous researches in interdisciplinary science called nanotechnology. We have reached such a point that we are not surprised by the flexible LED screens used in TVs, mobile phones, smart watches or even in clothing.

flexible led
Fig. 3. Source:

Device, as a whole (electronic circuit and components) is incorporated into a paper-thin and even transparent foil. Rapid growth of OLED technology was also one of the reasons for further development and popularity growth of flexible electronics. Such solutions enable users to interact with such devices by twisting them, bending or folding across both planes. As a flexible display advantages we can consider e.g. cheaper manufacturing process, exploitation, which may translate into the final, cheaper price in the electronic stores in the future.

Examples of LED varieties

  • RGB LED (Red Green Blue LED) – has three colors in “one box”, which allows to generate any color,
  • IR (Infrared) – it emits infrared radiation that is used for example in data transmission, also in older models of mobile phones (some of you may not remember this!),
  • HB LED (High Brightness LED) – diodes with high brightness. They are used in automotive, traffic lights, streetlights or in frontal bicycle lights.

LED – Advantages

  • ability to choose light colors (wavelength),
  • low operating voltage (single LEDs need from 2 to 4V to start working),
  • low power consumption,
  • small sized component (compared to a standard bulb even very small),
  • high efficient,
  • low energy losses,
  • durable.
Michal Pukala
Electronics and Telecommunications engineer with Electro-energetics Master degree graduation. Lightning designer experienced engineer. Currently working in IT industry.



  1. Vf is quite inaccurate for modern LEDs
    e.g. Blue Vf = 3V at 20mA or 2.9 @0.35A for high power ( same for white.)
    ESR ~= 16 Ohms for 65mW and 0.5 to 1 Ohm for 1 Watt diodes.

    All diodes have a threshold voltage and a rated Vf at some rated current which includes the ESR of the bulk resistance. The ESR is inversely proportional to the rated power of any diode including LEDs and the product term of ESR at rated current * Watts at some temperature like 25’C or 85’C is equal from 1 to 2 Watt-Ohms.