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TechTuesday
TECH TUESDAY
LEDs and Binning – What is That?
Author: Dorothy Winslow

Hello everyone! I mentioned binning in our first article:

“Lumens, CRI, and color are some of the categories that LEDs are sorted into. In the science labs we talked about, the LED sorting is called binning. Like when you win tickets at Chuck E Cheese, you have to pick from the bins that you have enough tickets for. LEDs get tickets too, and the LEDs with more tickets for those categories are higher quality. These higher quality LEDs are used in museums and art galleries. LEDs that do not get as many ‘tickets’ are put into the low quality bin. Manufacturers, like Toys R Us, pick from the low bin to light up the sirens in their toy cars.”

The best way to explain binning in more detail is by first describing how LED’s are made. I briefly sugar-coated what an LED is made up of in our first article:

“LED stands for Light Emitting Diode. In general terms, it’s made from the stuff the swamp monster was wearing in that one episode of Scooby Doo. It’s a piece of metal with a phosphorous that glows. We now grow it in scientific labs, so no more swamp monsters.”

So, what are LEDs REALLY made of? To get into more detail, a LED is born as a wafer. Like a thin metal cracker. The wafer is coated with crystals to create a semiconductor. “What is a semiconductor?” you might ask. A semiconductor is a diode, or something that electricity flows through in one direction (no, not the popular teenage band), like in a river. This is the ‘Diode’ in Light Emitting Diode.

The coated wafer is then sliced into tiny rectangles. Wires are connected to the slices and phosphor (that stuff from the swamp monster) is coated on to the slice. What is phosphor? Phosphor is a chemical that gives off light.

Next it is put into a bit of glass or silicone which, all together, forms the LED.

Article 5 LED diagram

The wafers with the crystal stuff (the diodes) are what determine how bright an LED is and what power it works on. The phosphor determines how yellow the color of the LED is. If you want a yellow light like the incandescent lamps, you need to add more phosphor. When you put more of that chemical on, the LED becomes less efficient.

 
LEDs are binned, or sorted, by brightness, voltage, and color. The industry has standardized these qualities per bin, but different manufacturers will use higher standards for higher quality LED lamps.

 
Higher quality = more money.

 
There are rating “laws”, if you will, for lamps; you’ll be familiar with the Energy Star rating. This rating ensures a minimum quality standard is met when LED lamps and fixtures go through Energy Star testing.

When shopping, you’ll see if a product is Energy Star Rated by this label:

Article 5 energy star picture

 

Have an illuminating day!

 

Note: I used a lot of knowledge from Jonathan Broida, our LED Sales expert here in our office, along with both Lithonia and Cree white papers to teach myself about binning.

About the author: Dorothy Winslow is a sales associate for CES Santa Barbara and has been with the company 4 years. She specializes in LED lighting and Energy Management. She is also a San Francisco Giants fan and an avid dog lover.