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Tips for selecting and using a heat sink for high power LEDs.

Last Updated: Aug 23, 2012 11:38AM MDT
  • Your objective is to keep the junction temperature of the LED as cool as possible, so choose the largest heat sink possible.
  • The more surface area you have, the more efficient the heat sink will be. Do not confuse surface area with mass or weight. The mass or weight of a heat sink will provide little cooling capacity. Always go for a lightweight aluminum or copper material with a large flat surface or a finned or pin grid array heatsink. You can of course improve the performance of a heat sink by adding forced air cooling, but the starting point is always as much dissipative surface area as possible.
  • Be sure that the surface areas between the LED and the heat sink are as clean and as flat as possible.
  • Black anodized heat sinks will always perform better than unfinished aluminum.
  • Whenever possible, mount the fins of the heat sink so they are facing up.
  • Whenever possible use mechanical fasteners (nuts and screws) to fasten the LED to the heat sink. Double sided thermal tape is more convenient and will work well, however, you can improve the thermal conductivity between the LED and the heat sink by using mechanical fasteners.
  • If you are using double sided thermal tape, apply as much pressure as possible to the LED and heat sink during assembly to ensure solid contact between the LED, tape and heat sink.

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