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What is an LED Heatsink?
May 03, 2018

Light emitting diodes (LED) are popular lighting choices in computers, most often in indicator lights and monitors. LEDs are known for their efficient lighting; they generate light with minimal energy use. Despite this efficiency, however, LEDs are also known to produce heat that can potentially damage the device. An LED heatsink is any substance or device that can counteract the harmful effects of this heat, either by cooling the LED or by diverting the heat generated. The use of a heatsink can dramatically reduce heat, even in high-powered LEDs.

An LED heatsink can work in either of two ways: as a passive heatsink or as an active heatsink. A passive LED heatsink, when attached to an LED mechanism, diverts much of the generated heat away from the LED and into itself. To this end, most LED heatsink devices in the market are made of conductive metal. Some researchers, however, experiment with gels and other substances for use as heatsinks.

In the same fashion, an active LED heatsink also draws heat away from the LED. The addition of a fan further increases the heatsink's cooling capabilities, making active heatsinks a popular choice among computer owners. Although an active LED heatsink does provide stronger cooling, the power needed to run the fan diminishes the energy efficiency of the LED. Active LED heatsinks are also less effective without an adequate amount of ventilation holes in the computer's frame.

Both a fanless heatsink and an active one are attached to the LED device using connectors that are themselves effective in diverting heat. In some cases, a carbon steel heatsink clip can be used to attach an LED heatsink to the device. In others, a special heatsink paste can hold the LED heatsink firmly in place. Both options are effective in attaching the heatsink to the device, but heatsink paste is more often preferred due to the minimal weight it adds. The weight difference can be significant in reducing the strain on some computer boards.

Much research is put into creating an efficient high-powered LED heatsink. With energy efficiency a high priority in developing technologies, many manufacturers are turning to high-powered LEDs, which can provide an even greater amount of light than average LEDs. One major drawback to high-powered LEDs, however, is that they also produce a much higher amount of heat. As a result, heat management is a crucial consideration for manufacturers hoping to utilize high-powered LEDs.