LEDs are usually constantly illuminated when a current passes through them, but flashing LEDs are also available. Flashing LEDs resemble standard LEDs but they contain a small chip inside which causes the LED to flash with a typical period of one second. This type of LED comes most commonly as red, yellow, or green. Most flashing LEDs emit light of a single wavelength, but multicolored flashing LEDs are available too.
Blue LEDs are based on the wide band gap semiconductors GaN (gallium nitride) and InGaN (indium gallium nitride). They can be added to existing red and green LEDs to produce white light, though white LEDs today rarely use this principle.
Most LEDs have low reverse breakdown voltage ratings, so they will also be damaged by an applied reverse voltage of more than a few volts. Since some manufacturers don't follow the indicator standards above, if possible the data sheet should be consulted before hooking up an LED, or the LED may be tested in series with a resistor on a sufficiently low voltage supply to avoid the reverse breakdown. If it is desired to drive an LED directly from an AC supply of more than the reverse breakdown voltage then it may be protected by placing a diode (or another LED) in inverse parallel.
Advantages of using LEDs
LEDs produce more light per watt than do incandescent bulbs; this is useful in battery powered or energy-saving devices.
LEDs can emit light of an intended color without the use of color filters that traditional lighting methods require. This is more efficient and can lower initial costs.
The solid package of an LED can be designed to focus its light. Incandescent and fluorescent sources often require an external reflector to collect light and direct it in a usable manner.
When used in applications where dimming is required, LEDs do not change their color tint as the current passing through them is lowered, unlike incandescent lamps, which turn yellow.
LEDs are ideal for use in applications that are subject to frequent on-off cycling, unlike fluorescent lamps that burn out more quickly when cycled frequently.
LED’s, being solid state components, are difficult to damage with external shock. Fluorescent and incandescent bulbs are easily broken if dropped on the ground.
LEDs have an extremely long life span. One manufacturer has calculated the ETTF (Estimated Time To Failure) for their LED’s to be between 100,000 and 1,000,000 hours . Fluorescent tubes typically are rated at about 10,000 hours, and incandescent light bulbs at 1,000-2,000 hours.
LEDs mostly fail by dimming over time, rather than the abrupt burn-out of incandescent bulbs.
LEDs light up very quickly. A typical red indicator LED will achieve full brightness in microseconds; LEDs used in communications devices can have even faster response times.
LEDs can be very small and are easily populated onto printed circuit boards.