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Increasing LED efficiency with high-brightness silver plating

Takashi Ohtsuka
Marketing Manager, Interconnect Technologies, Electronic Solutions Responsible for electronic component technologies for LED leadframe, passive components and TAB/COF segments.

Light emitting diodes’ (LEDs) many distinguishing characteristics contribute greatly to energy savings. Therefore, LEDs are seeing growth in markets such as lighting, LCD back light, smartphones and PCs. Attractive LED features include lower power consumption (higher efficiency), ultra-long life, few reflections outside the visible spectrum, small and light weight with good blinking performance and high resistance to shock. Additionally, UV-LED has a lower wavelength that can provide sterilization, making it a potential technology for applications such as medical equipment. Such wide usage will further drive LED demand, requiring manufacturers to provide LEDs with enhanced performance.

But why use LEDs? According to The Climate Group’s report, “Lighting the Clean Revolution: The Rise of LEDs and What It Means for Cities,” lighting makes up 19% of global electricity use and approximately 6% of global greenhouse gas emissions. In other words, converting to energy-efficient lighting could result in saving 40% of lighting energy globally and have the climate impact equivalent of eliminating half the emissions of all electricity and heat production in the European Union.

What makes LEDs so efficient? There are many technologies that go into LEDs to achieve and enhance the performance benefits they offer. This is especially true for high-output LED packages, like those used for general lighting, e.g., for residential, commercial, street and automobile headlights. Bright silver is used as an electrolytic finish on LED leadframes to achieve the desired wire bonding, brightness and reflectivity—critical performance factors of the silver-plated surface for LED components.

The assembly of the LED component involves several heat cycles, which can cause oxidation of the silver that may adversely affect its brightness and hence its performance. The demand for high-performance LED devices with stable high brightness and reflectivity was the principal driver for the development of Dow Electronic Solutions’ new High-Brightness Silver product.

An added benefit of this new silver-plating electrolyte is that it has low cyanide content, which significantly minimizes the potentially hazardous risk from conventional cyanide-based plating products and lowers the cost for safety controls. High-Brightness Silver has overcome the many common drawbacks of cyanide-free formulations, like unsatisfactory deposit appearance, electrolyte instability, difficulties in bath maintenance, limited plating rate and relatively high costs, thereby addressing customers’ critical manufacturing requirements.

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