LEDs with a concave cone-shaped lens are sometimes called "straw hat" LEDs. What is the advantage compared to the more common hemispherical lens?

An example of this type of LED

  • \$\begingroup\$ "Concave"? Can you attach a picture? A Google Image Search just finds short but convex lenses. \$\endgroup\$ – endolith Sep 12 '11 at 12:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ Search for "concave cylindrical" leds. I had one of these once, but now I only have "short but convex" (called "helmet" in one place, but sold to me as "straw hat"). Maybe the "helmet" style provides a similar illumination pattern with less plastic? \$\endgroup\$ – joeforker Sep 12 '11 at 13:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ The correct term in the optoelectronics business for the type of lens shown in the photo you supplied is "dimple lens", for obvious reasons. Due to the relatively crude tolerances, a significant amount of light is emitted in the direction of the cylindrical axis of the device body, but the dimple also disperses light in a 360-degree radial swath, making such an LED approximate the omnidirectional emission pattern of an incandescent bulb. \$\endgroup\$ – Andrew P. Jan 5 '16 at 1:15

The straw hat LED lenses have a much more even light distribution pattern than the typical hemisphere lens. The hemisphere lens usually focus the light into a narrow cone of maybe 20 or so degrees. One application that workes very well is Christmas tree lights. The straw hat lenses make the LED disperse light like an incandescent bulb.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Down voting because the answer of @RussellMcMahon is the right one \$\endgroup\$ – Volker Siegel Jul 10 '14 at 9:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ @VolkerSiegel Could you explain what you found incorrect about my answer so that I can fix it? \$\endgroup\$ – W5VO Jul 10 '14 at 14:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ The purpose of this construction is explixcitly to direct the light to the side. On the picture in the question, you see this triangular part on top of the LED that looks reflecting. That is actually a reflector to direct light by 90 degrees to the side around. On this picture, the LED would direct part of the light to the viewere. This mirror is actually just the boundary of the transparent material and air. This non-obvious mirror, and the fact that the effect works only partly, makes it hard to see how it was meant to be used. See image in answer of @RussellMcMahon for more destails. \$\endgroup\$ – Volker Siegel Jul 10 '14 at 15:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ @VolkerSiegel I understand how the specific LEDs in question work, and I have seen some in operation as well (incidentally, as Christmas tree lights). The question was "What is the advantage of straw hat LEDs?", and the answer is a much wider viewing angle. Certainly Russell goes into more detail, but I don't see what is wrong in my answer. \$\endgroup\$ – W5VO Jul 10 '14 at 15:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ah, it seems like we have a different interpretation of what the question is asking; I read it as "For which purpose are straw hat LEDs intended", and assume that you would read it more like "For which purpose are straw hat LEDs useful". I can see your's is as right as mine :) \$\endgroup\$ – Volker Siegel Jul 10 '14 at 16:59

"Straw hat" LED is the name generally given to LEDs whose envelope is shorter and wider and flatter than the typical 5mm epoxy LED. The main feature is that a very wide radiation angle is achieved - typically 90 degrees to 160 degrees full cone angle.

HOWEVER, this is NOT what you described in your question and nobody (as of January 21st 2013) has actually answered what you asked.

Most LEDs use a formed lens as part of the construction.
The LED that you are referring to does not mainly use a lens - instead it uses an internal reflector - see diagram below.

With the LED aligned to radiate vertically (as shown) the light from the die travels vertically at a relatively wide angle and encounters a mirror surface and is reflected almost horizontally. As the light rays from the die are not parallel they will intersect the mirror at differing angles depending on source and destination so the light will be spread in a vey wide angle band or halo. There is NO direct frontal radiation as the mirror assembly is opaque. There may be some forward radiation at all angles due to internal reflection in the LED body but the level will be low.

Why do this? / What is it used for?

  1. Because they can.
  2. Some people find it useful. eg an array of these LEDs arranged behind an instrument panel and facing outwards will illuminate the cavity behind the panel. This could act as a formal or informal light guide.

If you place this LED in a larger external reflector it will place most of the light on the reflector surface at a short distance beyond the LED. So a very short reflector can do a good job or forming the beam into some other forward pattern.

I have seen high power LED torches designed for Police use. These had standard wide angle SMD LEDs and deep reflectors, but the very large majority of the light was handled by the region just beyond the LED.

enter image description here


There seems to be a discussion about what a straw hat should look like.

enter image description here enter image description here

Both are straw hats, but the left one is concave, while the right one is convex. Searching images.google.com returns almost exclusively LEDs which are convex shaped:

enter image description here

While the classic PTH LEDs are more like "Elbonian hat", these have their die closer to the lens, and the lens is also less rounded. This makes for a much wider radiation angle, typically 120° to 140°, whereas the Elbonian LEDs often have radiation angles less than 60°.

  • \$\begingroup\$ en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conical_Asian_hat \$\endgroup\$ – joeforker Sep 12 '11 at 15:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ @joeforker: the concave LED doesn't immediately remind me of a conical Asian hat. I think "straw hat" is a badly chosen name since it's not unambiguous. (I like "Elbonian hat"!) \$\endgroup\$ – Federico Russo Sep 13 '11 at 12:41

Straw-hat LEDs have a wider viewing angle (typically 100 degrees).


I'm one of the two inventors of the Straw Hat.. When early high brightness Nichia white LEDs came out, my friend John Mize started a company to make LED flashlights using T1-3/4s sized LEDS. We needed a way to force the
light to fill the reflector of the flashlight. John was not a Optics person, and asked me to help with getting a nearly collimated beam for his flashlights.

We started with a standard LED and built a rig to grind a new curve onto the stock led surface. By careful use of a balance between Total Internal Reflection, Scattering from the grinding, and Forward Emission, we could get a reasonably nice beam in a standard flashlight reflector intended for a two "D" cell flashlamp. I'm the one who taught John about TIR. My name does not appear in the patent as I did the contract work.

The LED with the Conical Pit is a patented design by a fellow named YAN. Yan's device was cited against us in the patent review stage by the examiner. We had to submit a reply showing a goniometer scan of the beam patterns. Ours showed considerable improvement over a stock "YAN" device or the patent would have been rejected.

When John's major licensee insisted on shifting production to Hong Kong, the design was readily copied where there was no patent enforcement, and someone paid to have molds made for the shape.

It has since been widely copied and modified.

See US 6328456, John v. Mize..

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ It is better to put personal info in your profile. Questions should be noise free and answer the question, do what you want but that is the guidance. \$\endgroup\$ – Voltage Spike Jan 19 '17 at 17:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ Maybe Yan's device should be called an "Ant Lion" LED \$\endgroup\$ – joeforker Jan 24 '17 at 14:09

The phrasing and image of the original question are in conflict: the image shows not "straw hat" (a.k.a. "helmet") lensed LEDs, but "concave cone" or "inverted cone" lensed LEDs. Stevenh's reply shows a "straw hat" lensed LED.

The purpose for both of these alternate lens shapes has already been mentioned: to change the light dispersion pattern. A standard round-topped LED typically throws a bright cone with a vertex angle in the range of about 20 to 90 degrees depending upon the specific geometry used (or, for diffused types, is most brightly visible from angles in such a range).

A straw-hat lens projects a broader more-or-less even hemispherical pattern, which again depending upon the exact geometry may approach or exceed 120 degrees.

However, the description given by Russell McMahon for the inverted cone lens is not quite accurate - the inverted cone is not an opaque reflector. So, while this design does project the majority of the light in a slightly forward-angled band as shown in the diagram, a significant amount of light still goes through the cone in the more generally forward directions. This also results in a more-or-less hemispherical projection pattern, but with brighter light toward the periphery and some unevenness characterized by brighter and darker rings in the pattern, compared to the straw hat pattern which is more even overall, generally does not have any noteworthy bright rings in the forward direction, and is usually somewhat brighter toward the center straight-ahead direction.


LED Shapes:

"Bullet" - (traditional type) gives spotlight beam for flashlights

"Strawhat" - (shorter lens) gives wider floodlight beam

"Flat Top" - (as it says) gives wide spread light

"Inverted Cone" (shown in original question) - gives sideways light all round, but less to the front


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