Instructables
Build your own blue LED light box to combat SAD and winter blues. Sleep better and wake up with more energy while exploring the world of high-power LEDs. If 18 watts of LED power isn't enough to wake you, just add more LEDs!

Also, check out Blue LED dawn simulator for Soleil Sun Alarm.
 
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Step 1: Why blue light?

According to light box manufacturers 446 to 477 nm wavelength light is supposed to be the most effective for treating seasonal affective disorder (second to natural sunshine, of course). Instead of buying a commercial product that lacks external control and might be based on psuedo-science, I decided to take advantage of the rapidly falling price of high-power LEDs to build an 18-watt blue light.

Step 2: Materials

Here's what I used and where I got it.

Luxeon III Stars, (Lambertian) 3 blue (470 nm), 3 royal blue (455 nm) - Luxeon.com
BuckPuck 700 mA driver (03021-D-E-700) - TheLEDLight.com
30 volt DC power supply - RadioShack
1/8 Mono phone jack and plugs - Radioshack

lying around the shop but available at RadioShack or Jameco:
small breadboard
wires
mica
heat grease
1/8 thick aluminum sheet approximately 8 x 10
#4-40 nylon screws and nuts

Step 3: Rough cut and drill holes in aluminum base

The LEDs generate a lot of heat, so I mounted them in an aluminum base that could also act as a heatsink.

Cut the aluminum to size and mark where you want to mount the LEDs. I printed a template on paper and used it to mark where to drill mounting holes.

Step 5: Bend the aluminum base

Clamp pieces of wood to the front face of the base to keep it flat. Bend it into an upside-down "7" shape.

Step 6: Cut mica

The back side of the LEDs is not electrically neutral, so they need to be isolated.

Cut thin pieces of mica, which is thermally but not electrically conductive, into the shape of the LEDs. I used a laser cutter, but you can also use the mica's existing shape and carefully drill holes to fit the LED's screws by starting with very small drills and working your way up.
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14034 years ago
this is a great insperation to my school work
larsmunck 14034 years ago
LED in ears cures SAD!!

Listen guys. This is going to sound like SCI-FI i know, but bear with me because this is awesome news! :)

Scientist in finland have found out that if you insert a pair of very strong LED lights in the ears, it cures SAD.... Simple. Yes. Weird. Yes. Effective. Yes, because they have allready launched a product thats on the market now caled "Valkee": http://www.arcticstartup.com/2010/01/22/valkee-projects-light-onto-your-brain-literally/

Its a portable lighting device, looks like a walkman, but it costs like 200 euros!

Now I am really curious to make a DIY set for myself, but a bit unsure how strong the LED should be, what size, color, and if there is risks like burns/ shock. I asked my local electrician and what he could produce was a white 20 MA LED.

What do you think!!?


According to the study, 1 lumen was effective at treating SAD. It looks like 20 mA white LEDs are more than bright enough.You can dim it further with resistors if you prefer.

Blue and cyan may work too but the longer the wavelength, the safer it is. I have never used the Valkee before. If you have, please let me know about it. There is little if any risk of getting shocked from 3.6V but shorts can burn at any voltage.
http://www.valkee.com/uk/Transcranial_Bright_Light_Treatment-IFMAD.pdf

Here's an article about my opinion
http://hanlin-y.blogspot.com/2012/01/opinions-on-valkee-brain-stimulation.html
larsmunck 14034 years ago
LED in ears cures SAD!!

Listen guys. This is going to sound like SCI-FI i know, but bear with me because this is awesome news! :)

Scientist in finland have found out that if you insert a pair of very strong LED lights in the ears, it cures SAD.... Simple. Yes. Weird. Yes. Effective. Yes, because they have allready launched a product thats on the market now caled "Valkee": http://www.arcticstartup.com/2010/01/22/valkee-projects-light-onto-your-brain-literally/

Its a portable lighting device, looks like a walkman, but it costs like 200 euros!

Now I am really curious to make a DIY set for myself, but a bit unsure how strong the LED should be, what size, color, and if there is risks like burns/ shock. I asked my local electrician and what he could produce was a white 20 MA LED.

What do you think!!?


calskin3 years ago
Do you remember an approximate cost of this project?
ABaruwal3 years ago
Im making a wake up light for my final engineering project and and unable to find useful information :(
Can anyone help me with the circuit for the wake up light, please.
Help much appericiated
Ragasteady4 years ago
This design involves a risk for the eyes. According to Lumileds documentation :

"Blue and RoyalBlue power light sources represented here are IEC825 class 2 for eye safety."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laser_safety#Class_2


This means that LED can cause damage is the user stares at them. HB LEDs should always have a diffusor in front of them.

Yes, all commercial LED light boxes have diffusers on them.
I am looking into the blue light hazard and while it is not completely settled at what point it starts to be dangerous, it is clear that small point sources will be much worse than diffuse ones. Given how powerful the Luxeons are, I would STRONGLY urge you to use a diffuser. Even a thick piece of vellum an inch (3cm) away would help a lot.

If the mechanism for BLH is as expected, even 480nm light is likely to be hazardous, and even when diffused. 505nm light ("Cyan" for Luxeons) would be < 10% as dangerous as blue while being 60% as effective for reducing melatonin levels (the presumed mechanism for reducing SAD and restoring circadian rhythm).

So I am looking at building a box with 505nm to replace my Philips unit.

Finally, make sure the light box is in your upper peripheral vision - it appears the receptors for melatonin/circadian are there, and the area of most concern for BLH is the macula (center point of vision).
I suggest heating the aluminum before bending any angles tighter than the ones used in this project. I wanted a true 90 degree angle for my project but the aluminum broke without heating with a torch. It made the bending easier too!
1574392325_c6d9f50d58.jpg
(removed by author or community request)
They've started flogging these in Oz too. How confident are you regarding 660nm and 880nm?
Just think my company make the similar products Morris Shenzhen aglare lighting co.,ltd
ewilhelm (author)  sensoryhouse7 years ago
That's a nice looking light!
why thank you, Mr. CEO.
larsmunck4 years ago
Ok guys!... This will sound like Sci-fi i know, so bear with me!

Scientists in finland have found out that if you insert a pair of LED lights... in the ears (!) it cures SAD. Simple. Yes. Weird. Yes. Effective. Yes, because they have launched a product called the "Valkee". A moblile light theraphy gadget, that looks like a ipod with earplugs (i even think there is a mp3 player in it).

http://www.arcticstartup.com/2010/01/22/valkee-projects-light-onto-your-brain-literally/

So, now I am very curious of how to make a DIY version!
I am uncertain about size, color, power and if there is any risks of heating/ burns of the earcanal. But, please if you too are willing to test this, put the results up and lets hear it! My local electric store suggested a pair of 20 MA LED 5mm lights. What do you think?!!

Here is a pic of the Valkee
valkee_led_korvalamppu.jpg
Thav4 years ago
I haven't looked at LED prices lately, but maybe something like this would be easier for some people to deal with.

http://www.alliedelec.com/search/productdetail.aspx?SKU=6790284

I think all you would have to do is then provide a power supply and mount that enclosure to a heatsink. It certainly doesn't have the aesthetic appeal of your design, but it's an option.
Farles7 years ago
Why use those Luxeon Leds, as you could simply use raw LEDs... anyways, looks great, love the aluminum shaping... gives me ideas :P
ewilhelm (author)  Farles7 years ago
I used the Luxeon's because they are much brighter.
moep ewilhelm5 years ago
very professional :-) thanks for sharing. We are in the Led lighting field also, manufactuer in Ningbo city, China I am Annie from Paneralighting Co., www.paneralighting.com annie.deng@paneralighting.com , hope we have a change to talk about the lighting details:-)
captdecoy5 years ago
Have you considered a hat version of a lightbox? I've been thinking of modding a Luxion LED headlamp with a blue LED and attaching it to a hat visor facing inward.
Xharhoo6 years ago
Blue light is actually proven to keep you awake.... But that is beside the point. Nice Instructable!
awang8 Xharhoo5 years ago
If it keeps you awake, turn it on in the morning.
robin676 years ago
just curious, why the controller and not just the power supply directly.
ewilhelm (author)  robin676 years ago
thanx, now it makes sense! great idea.any more cool instructs?
would you seriously want something that bright in your face as you sleep? i would have covered it with a translucent piece of plastic
ewilhelm (author)  MatrixEagle156 years ago
It's only on while I'm waking up - it's not on while I sleep.
nobby_sk86 years ago
thats reli cool but i would of used light reflective acrylic insted that would be easyer to bend aswell :P
ewilhelm (author)  nobby_sk86 years ago
Post an Instructable when you finish!
mori7 years ago
Umm... Is there a circuit diagram?
ewilhelm (author)  mori7 years ago
mori ewilhelm7 years ago
Thanks ewil. Your circuit kicks'a. I've got some questions, which I'll put on the other thread. Brian
oconnorm8 years ago
Thank you for sharing this project. You beat me to it!

You might be interested in reading the following article, which will be published in Biological Psychiatry this summer:

Light Therapy for Seasonal Affective Disorder with Blue Narrow-Band Light-Emitting Diodes (LEDs) Glickman G, Byrne B, Pineda C, Hauck WW, Brainard GC.

You can find a preprint of this article on PubMed.

One of the problems with your implementation is that there is a huge tolerance on the light output of the devices you've chosen. If you want to replicate the device in the paper, you need 607 uW/cm2 at 50 cm.

Entertainingly enough, Apollo LIght is trying to patent the use of LED arrays to treat SAD. If you're American, and you care about this, please be sure to voice your opposition to patent application # 20060009822 "Hand-held programmable ocular light therapy apparatus and methods"
dan oconnorm8 years ago
i can only read the abstract of the paper without paying, but even there it sounds like this study only tested one light intensity setting, so there is no data to support the idea that the intensity is highly critical. the distance from the lamp to your body will affect the received radiant energy tremendously.

i am not impressed with the quality of this study anyway, because they only tested red vs. blue, and did not test intensity effects. far more interesting would be to test against white light, which includes blue. why bother building a blue-only light when a bright white light has just as much blue in it anyway? oh right, so you can sell $500 blue lamps.

refer to the bottom of this page:
http://www.clinicaltrials.gov/ct/show/NCT00269633
one of the studies listed tested white vs. blue and found little difference. all the studies agree that red has no effect. others found little effect from bright light at all. the results are all over the map.
mori dan7 years ago
I'm pretty impressed with this.. basically takes the possibility of melatonin suppression as a given and researches different wavelengths.
http://www.jneurosci.org/cgi/reprint/21/16/6405.pdf
oconnorm dan8 years ago
>this study only tested one light intensity setting, so there is no data to >support the idea that the intensity is highly critical. Yah, it being an inverse square law and all, I see what you're saying. The study attempted to control for this - they showed people what 50 cm looks like at the beginning of the study, and asked them to reproduce that viewing distance at home. I would gently suggest that the idea that has no experimental support is your idea that the intensity doesn't matter. This study gives evidence of an effect at a particular intensity, and that is the only evidence that exists (at least, in my limited, nonspecialist survey of the literature.) >i am not impressed with the quality of this study anyway, because they > only tested red vs. blue The reason they tested against red is that it has been previously established that red has no effect. It's an experimental control thing. If you want to do an experiment where you tell the people that you're trying to see if light has an effect, you have to give the controls some colour of light since it would be a little bit of a tipoff if you gave them a box that doesn't light up at all.
dan oconnorm8 years ago
ok, you can send this paper to medicalresearch@zblob.com i'm familiar with experimental methods. i'm not suggesting that intensity of light does not matter, of course it does. its just that we have no reason to think that the value selected by the experiment is anywhere near the useful minimum or maxium because they didn't test that variable (at least, according to the abstract). similarly, their study of red light vs. blue light is i'm sure completely valid scientifically, the problem is that it is not a very interesting question to be studying. answering this question sheds little light on what we are really interested in, questions like: can SAD be reduced through environmental therapy? what is an optimal strategy for doing this? what is the scientific basis (proposed mechanism) for any observed effect? could an understanding of the scientific basis lead to development of enhanced SAD treatment methods? there are many variables involved in answering those questions, and such a specific test as 'red vs. blue' gets very little further data towards an answer. some of the earlier studies seemed to have been more logical in terms of the variables tested in the studies. from a brief look at the abstracts of a number of papers it seems that a couple studies showed (unsurprisingly) that white light is just as effective as blue - which of course is completely logical since white includes blue. i'm not aware of any detrimental effect of the non-blue part of the white light (except the UV), so why is anyone bothering with making blue-only lights? it seems very silly. if you could show that blue-only was somehow more effective than white, now that would be interesting.
oconnorm dan8 years ago
Yah, I agree that there are lots of questions still to be answered here, and that the study isn't perfect. For one thing, the study only used 20 people or so; it would be nice to have larger numbers. They used a pretty big array - wouldn't it be great if you only needed one (possibly high brighness) LED to get an effect? My light is going to try to reproduce the irradiance they used, since that's the only evidence-based treatment I've found. It would be really great if it didn't matter though - I have to drive 3 hours and beg shamelessly for access to a suitable radiometer.
dan oconnorm8 years ago
if you know the rated output of the LED's (which is always on the spec sheet), you can calculate the irradiance. you don't need a meter.
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