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video – shows a blue LED in it’s death throes…after flickering for a few days, it will eventually die

Blue LED Burnout:

LED Christmas light strings are our favorite for decorating both our Christmas tree AND our home bar. Unfortunately what I have found over the years is that it appears the blue colored LED’s burn out or fail faster than all other colors. The reason is not exactly certain, but we do know that red, yellow and green seem to last forever, while blues last less than the first year.

One thing is sure, there’s nothing worse that plugging in last years lights and finding almost all the blue lights dead…well actually there is something worse; finding out that the blue led lights you installed inside your bar or bar back are dead and require disassembly of bar part and replacement of the lights.

What Are LED’s?

LED stands for Light Emitting Diode. In order to get the LED to emit specific colors, a process of semiconductor “doping” is used, adding certain chemicals to produce the desire color effect. For example: Combining varying proportions of gallium arsenide (GaAs) with gallium phosphide (GaP) to the P(positive) and N(negative) gap allows LED lamps to emit red light at 690 nm (1.8 eV) through to yellow at 580 nm (2.14 eV). To get green through violet requires some basic primary color RGB trickery, but blue is essential to get that job done. In most cases, there are no violet LED’s, only an RGB combination of red and blue.

Simple Explanation of LED Color

To make this as simple as possible, if the P and N gap of the two LED conductors are at a specific distance, they produce a specific wavelength or color of light. The process of ‘spiking’ or ‘doping’ ads specific chemicals to the gap making it wider and thus producing different colors. Like the natural color spectrum, red is produced with a narrow gap and blue the widest gap. It’s was easy to initially produce the narrow gap of red-yellow, but to produce green to blue required enough expertise to earn a Noble Prize.

The Birth of the Blues

Blue LED’s  were developed in the early 1990’s, almost 30 years after the first red LED, by three Japanese scientists: Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano and Shuji Makamura. The three scientists received a Noble Prize in Physics for the Blue LED in 2014 because it involved some rather exotic physics to achieve.

Why Do Blue LED’s Tend to Burn Out Faster?

It is difficult to provide and exact answer as to why Blue LED’s appear to burn out faster. Perhaps it’s best to first understand how Blue LED’s work and why it deserved that Noble Prize. The manufacturing of Blue LED’s uses indium gallium nitride (InGaN) to achieve the proper energy gap for blue light. Since the lower colors require less of a gap and have a long proven manufacturing process and less exotic materials, this is likely why blue LED’s are not yet as robust, especially earlier models like the kind I’m trying to fix right now.

Enough Technical Details, How Can I fix My Blue LED’s?

Unfortunately you can’t fix a blue LED. BUT, you can replace it, but it’s not always easy. In searching the web extensively, I found it difficult to find direct replacement Blue LED’s, especially for Christmas light strings.

Since it’s nearly impossible and cost prohibitive to buy replacements for dead blue LED bulbs, my simple solution is to buy an entire string of Blue LED Christmas lights and use the bulbs to replace the dead blue LED’s in my multi-color Christmas light strings. It may be time consuming, but since the other colors last so long, it’s worth the time to pop the dead LED’s out with a small open side cutters or scissors to pry them out and just replace the failed units. I’m quite sure as the years go by, the manufacturing process for blue LED’s will improve as will their quality and lifespan.

Multicolor LED Lighting Made For Your Home Bar

We discuss LED Home Bar Lighting on this site often, so here are a few of our favorite multi-color LED lighting products made in strip form for lighting recessed areas of your home bar and bar back. Check out our home bar photos area for examples of how others have used multi-color LED lighting in the home bar projects. Happy Holidays!



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