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  • Jet engine technology boosts LED output

Photonics Spectra
Jan 2011
Charlie T. Troy, Senior Editor, charlie.troy@photonics.com

General Electric Co.’s product mix runs from jet engines to lightbulbs. Now one is benefiting from the other, after scientists combined jet engine cooling technology with LED bulbs.

The researchers, from GE’s Global Research and Lighting divisions and the University of Maryland in College Park, have developed a 1500-lm LED bulb as part of a two-year solid-state lighting program with the US Department of Energy; they say it addresses obstacles to more widespread adoption of these bulbs for general lighting.


Mehmet Arik, a mechanical engineer at GE Global Research and principal investigator on the LED project, displays GE’s new LED. Courtesy of General Electric Co.


With the new cooling technology, the number of LED chips required to generate 1500 lm of light is just a fraction of that required for today’s LED lamps, which produce less than half of the light output. With a more effective cooling solution, GE says that the chips can be run harder to produce more light.

“GE’s cooling solution is based on technology the company now uses in its aviation and energy businesses,” said Todd E. Alhart, a spokesman for GE Global Research, which has a team of fluidics experts that specializes in flow management technologies. “[The team is] developing innovative ways to control airflow and combustion to dramatically reduce the amount of pressure losses and loading characteristics in aircraft engines, and power generation in gas and wind turbines.”

GE dual cool jets are very small micro-fluidic devices, much like bellows that provide high-velocity jets of air that impinge on the LED heat sink and increase the heat transfer rate to more than 10 times that of natural convection.

For a given lumen output, the improved thermal management from the dual cool jets reduces the necessary LED chip count, which can significantly lower the cost of the lamp, according to GE. The cooling technology also makes it possible to reduce LED lamp size and weight.

“The cooling process we have developed was demonstrated in a prototype LED downlight, but we really see this as a technology platform that could benefit several LED lighting products in the future,” Alhart noted. “More development is required in the months ahead to prove the life and reliability and miniaturize the size of the jets to work in small form factors. When ready, we will work with the [GE] Lighting business on commercialization plans.

“As mentioned, the project we have been working on is really driving a broader technology platform that could support several LED lighting products in the future. We still have some work in the lab to complete in the months ahead before moving forward with commercialization plans. But we envision a technology platform that could benefit several commercial LED lighting products. That will be something our Lighting business will determine when ready.


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