In recent years, light emitting diodes (LEDs) have become an attractive technology for general and automotive illumination systems. LEDs have been preferable for automobile lighting due to its numerous advantages such as long life, low power consumption, optical control and light quality as well as robustness for high vibration. Thermal management is one of the main issues due to severe ambient conditions and compact volume. Conventionally, tightly packaged double sided FR4 based printed circuit boards are utilized for both driver electronics components and LEDs. In fact, this approach will be a leading trend for advanced Internet of Things (IOT) applications in near future.

A series of numerical models are developed to determine the local temperature distribution on both sides of a light engine. Results showed that FR4 PCB has a temperature gradient of over 63°C while the maximum temperature is 105°C. This causes a significant degradation of lifetime and lumen extraction as many LEDs are recommended to be operated below 100°C. In addition to FR4, Aluminum metal core and vapor chamber based advanced heat spreader substrates are developed to obtain thermal impact on the substrate due to a wide range of thermal conductivity of three boards. To mimic real application, two special flex circuits are developed for LEDs and driver circuit. 10 red and 6 amber LEDs at one flex-PCB, and driver components are populated on the other flex-PCB are mounted. Both flex circuits are attached each side of the substrate. Experimental results showed that the local hotspots occurred at FR4 PCB due to low thermal conductivity. Later, a metal core printed circuit board is investigated to minimalize local hot spots. High conductivity metal core PCB showed a 19.9% improvement over FR4 based board. A further study has been performed with an advanced heat spreader based on vapor chamber technology. Results showed that a thermal enhancement of 7.4% and 25.8% over Al metal core and FR4 based boards with an advanced vapor chamber substrate.

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