I have come across some very high powered LEDs.

Datasheet for LEDs http://www.cree.com/led-components-and-modules/products/xlamp/arrays-nondirectional/xlamp-cxa2011

My question is: for these high powered LEDs how can I create a driver circuit that will be energy effiecent or is there a driver for high powered LEDs that I'm just not finding.

The LEDs will eventually be used in a grow light for an aquaponics system so effiecency is essential.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I seriously doubt one LED operates at 40 V. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 28 '12 at 23:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ Maybe he meant 4.0V... \$\endgroup\$
    – Ci3
    Jun 28 '12 at 23:43
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ ... or, may be, it's an assembly with multiple LEDs in series. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 29 '12 at 3:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ These LED engine chips are a series (12) string of LED chips in a large silver dollar size package. 40V@270mA (11W @ 85°C) or up to 46V@1000mA (46W @ 85'C) which needs a CPU type cooler Reasonable prices for LEDs are ~$1.5/W x45W here \$\endgroup\$ Jul 13 '12 at 14:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Mike What is your budget for 80% efficient? 90% efficient in $/W? and volume? \$\endgroup\$ Jul 13 '12 at 19:45

For best overall LED efficiency (which is your stated aim) you want high efficiency LEDs plus high efficiency drivers. There are may high power LED modules available but they in many cases use LEDs that are less efficient than the best available. No amount of efficient driving of a very low efficiency LED will make up for its low efficiency.

You mention 0.8A x 40V (which will use multiple LED dies or separate LEDs) = 32 Watts. This input power could be obtained with about 5 to 8 of the top available LEDs and it will often be better to use the best available if top efficiency is wanted.

It will probably be most cost-effective to buy a commercially available LED driver rather than making your own, looking for good efficiency. ebay lists a vast quantity of possible candidates

You also need to specify your energy source. Is this 110 VAC mains, or a 12 Volt battery or?

The standard way of driving LEDs correctly and at maximum efficiency is straightforward (fortunately).

  • Determine required LED operating current.

  • From data sheets, determine maximum voltage drop that LED will have at desired current.

  • Provide a switched mode constant current source that will produce the required current at at least the maximum possible voltage.

  • Extra points:

    • Minimise LED temperature with cooling

    • Operating an LED at below its maximum current ratings will result in somewhat increased efficiency - perhaps 10% to 20% more light out per Watt in at 20% of full ratings compared to full power.

    • LED lifetimes increase with decreasing temperature and with decreasing current. While more current will usually result in more heat produced, These effects are independent of each other.

To get an LED driver of essentially any desired rated current. use of an external MOSFET of suitable rating, driven by a controller that sits, will allow whatever current the MOSFET can handle. This can be very large if desired.

For very best efficiencies use "synchronous rectification" - this replaces rectifier diodes with switched MOSFETs and gives lower losses.

Efficiencies around 85% from a low voltage DC source to an LED string will be achievable.Over 90% in selected cases and with care.

Comment on the above and we can provide better information.


The cost of consumer commodity PSU's for PC's range from cheap and dirty $50/500W to 1200W @ $300 Corsair Pro, so ranging from $100/kW to $250/kW. But LED approved drivers & PSU's tend to cost much more than this.

My suggestion is to use a good consumer 85W "universal laptop charger" (ULC)

  • They range in price and this year I've purchased ones for $35 @ 85W, or $0.41/W qty=1.
  • The key point here is LED drivers, supplies etc tend to cost as much or more than the LED Engines where here, I propose a cheap consumer solution.
  • Power LEDs range $1~$1.5/W and higher for improved quality
  • Expect these costs to shrink < $0.10 to $0.50/W in volume buys.
  • I have several installed running non-stop for a few years now.
  • Heatsink costs have a wide variation due to choices of large material costs with massive fins or moderate size with force air DC fans.

If you find a cheaper complete power solution for LED Engines, let me know.

  • Some non-OEM chargers have all std DC voltage settings & plugs for laptops.
  • I use the 4.5A @ 19V ULC's for 6x1W white or blue on aluminum clad PWB's
  • Shown below with 6x3 serial string and 6x1 string on aluminum boards
  • I mount these under aluminum 0.5"x1" extruded end strips uses for tiles for elimination of LED glare and additional heat-spreading and the mount under exterior hand or deck rails.

  • Moisture protection is added and essential for external use.

  • Used 13 strings of 6 x 1W LED MCPCB's (78 LEDs) in parallel on 19V @ 4.5A (85W)
  • Result was cool LED's, cool PS, but almost like daylight, so it was dimmed to 50% with 5Ω, 25W added. Efficiency was not a concern. Cost $1.5
  • 1W per linear foot under handrail or one strip every 5~6 feet
  • 400~500 Lumen per 6 x 1W strip each hidden under the handrail.
  • Results exceed user's expectations, pc's below prior to modification/ installation.

enter image description here

To use this for powering LED's depends on your expertise in matching an array of LEDs to the V-I operating points of the ULC. If you can buy from LEDs from the same batch, they V-I curve will be matched, but Disti's refuse to do this, so it takes purchasing skill, otherwise you will have issues.

Basically, it's all about having good low thermal resistance and raising circuit ESR slightly above nominal ESR characteristics with same batch sourcing on LEDs to achieve low cost reliable operation. You need to understand open circuit voltage a rise is expected with no load by the load regulation or ESR of the charger. 2% typ. or 100mΩ for 100W PS on long cables.

Ticky Tackie Technical secrets for Powering any LED Engine,

Now let's examine @Mike's desire to use Cree's 45W Xlamp cXa2011 LED

All PN diodes have a negative temperature coefficient, k (Shockley Effect) or voltage drop due to temperature rise. The fear with designers is with CV, is "thermal runaway" so they only consider constant current drivers whereas if you have tight control of a batch and sufficient ESR with low Tja, it is stable. When ambient & junction gets hotter, the LED's internal junction voltage drops demanding more current from the voltage difference across the ESR inside.

I'll show how to overcome this effect on the XLamp and in another article show how to measure junction temperature using the LED itself as a thermometer with the V-T curve which is standard in hospitals now.

  • from curves on p.5, using conservative specs.
  • 40.0V TYP @ 270mA ∂V/∂I = ESR = 7Ω at 10.4W TYP. (p.5 spec)
  • Thermal resistance jcn-case = 0.4 °C/W TYP.
  • Junction thermal voltage, k = -35 mV/°C. TYP. (p.2 spec)
  • We know that heatsink design is crucial and Rja is sum of all thermal resistance from junctions to ambient.
  • Let's choose 2 °C/W as heatsink + interface starting point, so Rja = 0.4+2 = 2.4°C/W

    - Note: that a decent CPU heatsink is ~ 0.2°C/W for a forced air CPU heatsink ) and an excellent one is <<0.1 °C/W.

  • V forward = 40V typ, 48V max @ 270mA this is a wide range from batch to batch - So you need a good source LED engines from same batch or ask me.

  • Note this a string of 12 chips in one hence 40V or 3.3V/chip

Thermal equilibrium exists where there is an intersect between the linear temperature with thermal resistance and the quadratic effects of If^2*Rs) If ambient is too high with high thermal resistance, runaway can occur. It can be prevented with low Thermal resistance and adding ESR in the cable.

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    \$\begingroup\$ No design is ever perfect in my mind. But in reality we define Perfection as just Meets or Exceeds Spec. \$\endgroup\$ May 24 '17 at 12:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yet you tend toward perfection ;) I round up, not down. \$\endgroup\$
    – user2497
    May 24 '17 at 12:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes I am a perfectionist with a lot of experience, so I am happier with reality def'n which is good enuf or better, but then I always try to exceed customer expectations in some important way.... \$\endgroup\$ May 24 '17 at 12:17

What is your power source? How many systems are you going to build? How close to your aquaponics system is the LED driver going to be? How many of these LEDs are going to use?

First thing -- Are you sure this is the proper LEDs for growing your plants? Most of the LEDs listed are binned in 2 and 4 McAdams steps. The 3000K parts have a CRI of 90. These are meant for indoor lighting where color matching is important -- display case, art gallery, merchandise display, etc. You are probably paying for photometric performance that will not matter to a plant.

Most plant lights I have seen use monochromatic LEDs -- primarily blue and red. Some will add in a white. The systems vary the amount of red/blue throughout the plants daily growth cycle to improve production. All the requests I have had are for red/blue.

If you really do need white I would do discrete LEDs. You could use OSRAM Oslon squares, Nichia 219B or Cree XML (XPG or XBD). If you can increase your CCT to 4000K, 5000K, 6000K and reduct your CRI to 60 or 70 you can improve your efficacy.

If the driver is going to be in a damp or wet environment I would use an IP66 (or better) driver to insure reliability. If you are only going to build a couple of systems I would spend the money and purchase drivers. The driver cost is low compared to these LEDs :)


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