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Quick Understanding Of LED Bulb Turning Blue

By on September 13, 2016










Another LED bulb in my house failed long before I could celebrate my 99th birthday! This was not supposed to happen if we believe the calculations I made in a previous article on this subject and mostly if we believe the 25,000 hours advertised for those lamps… This LED, however, did not suddenly stop glowing like the first one but was progressively turning from white to blue! It started with one blue spot which kept growing as time went. I always thought that the color of a LED is determined by the chemistry of the semiconductor and cannot be changed without changing the diode, so I became very curious.  Investigating this phenomenon led me to interesting findings about white LEDs that I thought of sharing in this short article.


That particular LED bulb was the very first one I bought some 4 to 5 years ago to replace the overheating filament bulb in one of my desk lamp. Soon I found out that I could not use it while working with high frequency projects – those small receivers I build just for the fun of it – as the LED was broadcasting a strong interference over a large range of radio frequencies. Therefore it was immediately banned from my workshop and ended up into the spare bulbs box, to be replaced with another, much more “silent” LED bulb; until last year when I used it to replace a burned filament bulb on the ceiling of the balcony. Far enough from my office/workshop the radio interferences did not matter anymore. All was then peaceful in the LED department until the appearance of the blue zone that prompted me to get the ladder and take the culprit to my workshop for further analysis.

I first tried to find some tips on the Internet on how to open this kind of bulb. It looked solid, with a heavy aluminum casted heat sink. One guy on YouTube was opening a similar lamp just by lifting the side of the plastic dome with a small screwdriver. It looked so easy so I tried it! First discovery, it was not plastic but glass, just like a filament lamp… After patching my bleeding finger with a band aid I continued the investigation! Inside the bulb was another, smaller bulb, yellowish/brown color. This one was obviously made of plastic as one side of it was melted with signs of overheating.


It came off easily, as the plastic had become brittle, exposing an array of 6 LEDs. At this stage I powered the lamp again to see if one of the LED had turned blue… Surprise, they were all blue! So the plastic globe was converting the blue light into white light? To confirm I took a blue LED and covered it with the plastic bulb; and yes the blue light became white.


A few extra measurements before continuing my destruction did not bring any further surprise. The power of the lamp confirmed to be around 10 W and the power factor about 0.82… It still generated that strong interference covering most of the radio frequencies!



All the 6 LED were connected in series and each LED had a voltage drop of 2.6 V. It was then easy to test all the LEDs together using a bench power supply.


So the mystery of the white lamp turning blue is explained by the degradation of the yellow “color converter” bulb. The question we could ask is why didn’t the manufacturer use white LEDs instead of going through all this trouble of designing that inside bulb?

The fact is that white LEDs as such do not exist! Of course, you will say, they exist as we can buy them almost anywhere… But they are not “pure LEDs” made with a PN junction only. Each PN junction emits one color only which depends on the chemistry of the semiconductor used (type of semiconductor, doping used etc…). LEDs exist in many colors from infra-red up to ultra-violet but not white. Because white is not a color but the sum of several colors. White doesn’t belong to the color spectrum… Consequently white LEDs must be made by combining colors and there are two methods for doing that:

1) Combining Red, Green and Blue LEDs to produce white color. This method is widely used for TV screens, computers, mobile phones etc… to make white or any color based on those three basic colors.

2) Convert a blue light into white light using a phosphor based material. Phosphor is a substance that displays the property of luminescence. It absorbs some of the blue emission and produces yellow light through fluorescence. The combination of that yellow with remaining blue light appears white to the eye. There are several materials that have phosphor properties and can produce light of different colors.

This second method is the one used for manufacturing high power white LEDs. Today’s typical white LEDs use a phosphor-dissolving resin mixed with silicon or some other resin. The blue LED chip is then coated with this composite. In the case of my LED bulb, the small plastic bulb was probably coated with similar phosphor material, in the same way a fluorescent tube is made. The following picture shows blue and white LEDs matrixes. The yellow part of the white LEDs is the phosphor coating.



This is all great but why blue LEDs? Engineers made the first LEDs in the 1950s and 60s. At the time, scientists developed LEDs that emitted almost everything from infrared light to green light… but they couldn’t quite get the blue. That required chemicals, including special crystals, which they weren’t yet able to make in the lab.

Initial blue LEDs were developed between late 1970th and late 1980th but were not very bright. However, help was on the way: Three scientists, Isamu Akasaki and Hiroshi Amano at the University of Nagoya, and Shuji Nakamura at Nichia Chemicals in Tokushima were working on the problem. Nakamura demonstrated the first high brightness blue LED in 1994. This was followed by improvements by both teams as they studied new gallium nitride alloys using aluminum or indium, as well as more sophisticated diode designs.

The three scientists were awarded the 2014 Nobel Prize in physics for their work. The efficiency and power of the blue LED had open the way for making the high power white LEDs (and also other colors) used today in so many applications. It was the start of the current lighting revolution…

This story is neither complete nor finished. Everyday new materials and new methods are investigated and new and exciting discoveries are made. Organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) are now parts of our mobile phones, tablets etc… and also used for printable and flexible displays. Quantum dot LEDs are just around the corner and promise to revolution the LED technology! And this never stops… LED is a fascinating subject and the net is full of information and details about it. I hope that this article will excite the curiosity of some of the readers, encouraging them to find more.

gerald musy

Gerald Musy

Penang, Malaysia

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  1. Mark

    September 13, 2016 at 10:15 am

    Well done Gerald!
    Fascinating stuff. I love LED's - I reckon they are amazing, especially with organics and swarm technology used in vehicles

    I hope your finger gets better!

    • Gerald

      September 13, 2016 at 3:42 pm

      Hi Mark,

      Thanks for your comment and for the link, fascinating. If I could afford such car I would program it to flash display "YOU ARE TOO CLOSE !" when someone is tailgating me at 130 km/h on the highway 🙂
      My finger is OK thanks, just a small punch...

  2. Anwar Shiekh

    September 13, 2016 at 10:31 am

    I wonder if an LED bulb would interfere with a garage opener if used in the motor unit

    • Gerald

      September 13, 2016 at 3:55 pm

      Hi Anwar,
      Thanks for your comment and your support.

      Garage openers usually work around 300 to 400 MHz. With the LEDs and SMPs I measured interferences between 100 KHz up to above 130 MHz, not higher but it doesn't mean that it doesn't exist. Checking on the net, the guy on the link below seems to have exactly this problem:

      Funny, I remember in the old time the first versions of garage openers worked with ultra-sounds. They used to get activated each time an airplane flew above the house...


  3. Parasuraman

    September 13, 2016 at 10:49 am

    Vow! Mind blogging!

    • Gerald

      September 13, 2016 at 3:56 pm

      Thanks for your support Parasuraman

  4. Beau

    September 13, 2016 at 12:28 pm

    Nice article, thank you

    • Gerald

      September 13, 2016 at 3:59 pm

      Thanks for your support Beau

  5. Steve Berry

    September 13, 2016 at 12:45 pm

    Great article learned something I never really thought about before. Always enjoy your articles.


    • Gerald

      September 13, 2016 at 5:25 pm

      Thanks for your support and appreciation Steve.


  6. moshe

    September 13, 2016 at 2:10 pm

    thanks for sharing it and opening the door to a previously unknown fact.


    • Gerald

      September 13, 2016 at 5:28 pm

      Thanks for your support Moshe

  7. Albert van Bemmelen

    September 13, 2016 at 3:00 pm

    Another really great article Gerald! You not often publish new articles but when you do they are punctuated with small historical facts as they did happen. Love to read them like anyone else on Jestine's repair Blog! In the TV technology you mentioned, you have the so-called additive color mixing when our eyes mix the primary colors green, blue and red mix to white. In addition to your article I like to mention this link:
    And in this respect I also like to add the Subtractive color Mixing. Which gives black when all colors are mixed like in the example when we mix all pots with every color of paint. Hope to see a new article of you sooner!

    • Gerald

      September 13, 2016 at 5:44 pm

      Hi Albert,

      Thanks for your comment and support. Also thanks for the great link, I bookmarked it as I like the way they present the concept.

      At school we do not learn much about "technical history", unfortunately. I like to read about it when researching for technical information. Knowing how and when things were invented or discovered is always fascinating and often surprising. And we understand better why things are the way they are...


  8. Yogesh Panchal

    September 13, 2016 at 3:03 pm

    Thanks for sharing your experience.

    • Gerald

      September 13, 2016 at 5:29 pm

      Thanks for your support Yogesh

  9. Anthony

    September 13, 2016 at 6:33 pm

    Very interesting and informative tutorial on the subject of LEDs Gerald ! They sure have come a long way and the future looks fascinating for them ! Thanks for sharing your knowledge about them here ! Regards

    • Gerald

      September 16, 2016 at 6:33 am

      Thanks for your support Anthony

  10. Andre Gopee

    September 13, 2016 at 9:27 pm

    Very nice article, it just goes to show that you are never to old to learn something. This article has thought me something... Thanks for sharing.

    • Gerald

      September 16, 2016 at 6:35 am

      Thanks Andre, so true learning is ageless fortunately

  11. beh

    September 14, 2016 at 11:43 am

    Hi Gerald
    thanks for your very interesting investigation and very well presented article
    and keep it up

    • Gerald

      September 16, 2016 at 6:37 am

      Thanks for your support Beh

  12. Paris Azis

    September 14, 2016 at 6:34 pm

    Hi Gerald

    Nice and interesting article,well presented as usually. Thanks for sharing it.

    Best Regards

    • Gerald

      September 16, 2016 at 6:38 am

      Thanks Paris

  13. Robert Calk

    September 15, 2016 at 10:01 pm

    Great information. Thanks for sharing with us.

    • Gerald

      September 16, 2016 at 6:39 am

      Thanks Robert

  14. YH Wong

    September 20, 2016 at 12:03 am

    Very informative article. 5 stars!

  15. Sebastián

    October 29, 2020 at 9:15 pm

    My TV backlight LEDs turning some parts blueish brought me to this article. At least i know some of the background now! 🙂

  16. Chris Reed

    September 27, 2022 at 4:17 am

    That was Fantastic, I was on the hunt to find out this very problem as I work for a Service Center, I came across a tv that the entire back light was bright blue. after reading this info, turns out the yellow phosphor is missing from most all the Led's but the 2 that still are white have a yellow center. I replaced the chip led's with new and fixed the tv. the only thing I can say is it must be a heat thing that melts the yellow phosphor off. Thanks for the Fantastic read 🙂


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