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GE Debuts Jet Engine-Inspired LED Bulbs

What do jet engines and LED light bulbs have in common? They both can overheat without proper cooling mechanisms. But while jet engines are highly effective at staying cool, LED technology is still in its infancy. So GE decided to stick jet engine cooling mechanisms inside LED bulbs. The result: a lightweight 1,500 lumen LED bulb that produces as much light as a 100 watt halogen bulb while using a third of the energy.

The key to GE's new bulb is microfluidics technology. GE explains:

GE dual cool jets are very small micro-fluidic bellows-type devices that provide high-velocity jets of air, which impinge on the LED heat sink. These jets of air increase the heat transfer rate to more than ten times that of natural convection. The improved cooling enables LED operation at high drive currents without losses in efficiency or lifetime.

Better cooling mechanisms also lower the amount of LED chips used in a bulb—which in turn, lowers the bulb's cost and weight. "Today, the cost of LEDs constitutes over 75% of the cost of the system," says Mehmet Arik, a mechanical engineer and GE's principal investigator on the LED project. "If we reduce the number of LEDs, the cost will drop."  Arik's 1,500 lumen bulb is actually half the size and weight of the 600 lumen LED bulb available today.

GE's jet engine-inspired technology isn't ready for commercialization—yet. "We'll have more reliability testing in the coming months," says Todd Alhart, a GE  Global Research spokesman. "But this is a tech platform that could support a number of LED products in the future."


Ariel Schwartz can be reached on Twitter or by email.