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High power LED bike head light with integrated heat sink

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Picture of High power LED bike head light with integrated heat sink
For those of us traveling by non-motorized conveyance (bicycle e.g.), visibility is important in both forenoon and post-twilight conditions. The best way to ensure such visibility is through the use of excessively bright lights, of which the latest light emitting diodes (LEDs) are the acme. The following account will detail the process of building an LED based head-light capable of of more than 500 lumens of output using about 6W of electrical power. For comparison, this is the same output as a typical 45W halogen bulb.
 
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Step 1: Bill of Materials

The high powered LEDs used for this Instructable are very efficient, putting out 80-90 lumens per watt, compared to typical incandescent and halogen bulbs. However, they still generate a lot of heat and the lifetime of the LED will be adversely affected by high junction temperatures. Therefore we want to get the heat away from the LED through ensuring good thermal contact with the LED board, high thermal conductivity in all materials, and good coupling of the thermal energy to the surrounding medium (air). The LED star board used for this project has three LEDs on it and has a metallic backplane that is isolated from the LED electronics. This is a good thing. The rest of the LED head-light is built out of copper fittings from the local hardware or home improvement store. To complete the project you will need:

Parts:
Luxeon Rebel Endor star 3-up LED
Endor star lens
Buck Puck constant current LED driver
3/4" Copper Pipe Cap
1" to 3/4" Copper pipe reducer fitting
Waterproof connector of your choice (I use 2 position automobile trailer connectors)

Supplies:
Conductive epoxy (thermally or electrically)
JB Weld or similar high strength epoxy
RTV silicone or epoxy for waterproofing
Silver solder and flux
emory paper for cleaning copper

Tools:
hacksaw
drill and bits
file
propane blowtorch
vice
hammer
sandpaper

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selvam123456 months ago

Hi, I am building a battery powered LED torch with 4X1.2V 1200mA batteries, and 3X3W LEDs I am trying hard to find a driver which could do the job of connecting them together

the LEDs I have are,
LED, HIGH POWER, 5000K, 70CRI, 275LM
Series: LUXEON TX
LED Colour: White
Luminous Flux @ Test: 369lm
Forward Current @ Test: 1A
Forward Current If Max: 1.2A
Forward Voltage @ Test: 2.86V.

could you please help me what should be the specifications of the driver??

jmengel (author)  selvam123456 months ago

First, I'd recommend looking at the latest Instructable I've done on these bike lights:

http://www.instructables.com/id/Improved-high-powe...

Based on your parts, you will have a 4.8V battery pack, and with 3 LEDs in series a forward voltage of 3x2.86@1A = Vf = 8.58. This means you need a boost type driver capable of outputting your desired drive current. Here is a boost type driver that may work, it is only rated down to 5V input so you might want to increase your pack size to 5 batteries and 6V. With 4.8V and 1200mAh you only have 5.8Wh which means that at the 800mA drive current of the linked driver you will only get about 45 minutes of run time assuming the driver won't drop out of regulation at 4.8V input.

Many thanks for the info

and I have made a mistake the batteries are 2100 mAh (not 1200 mAh)

would you still think i should include more batteries??

jmengel (author)  selvam123456 months ago

The runtime will be better with the 2100mAh, but the voltage is still low for the driver I linked to. If you can find a driver that will work, go for it as is. You are looking for a boost type driver which are typically made for flashlights. There are many out there on dx.com but the array is bewildering and I don't have the time to find one for you. Good luck.

hydronics3 years ago
check it out..... I used an Epoxy mold that allows for side lighting... or 180 degrees of light.
http://www.instructables.com/id/Bike-Light-2011/
michael.su5 years ago
Hi Jon, I finished the Housing....just have to add thee electronics now :-) Thought you might like to see pictures..... More pictures to come when it's all together. Thanks again for all the help. -Mike
Light1.jpgLight2.jpg
jmengel (author)  michael.su5 years ago
Wow, looks nice. I wonder if there is enough material and surface to adequately cool the LED. I would consider reducing the drive current from 800mA to around 500mA by changing out the resistor on the board. No way to know for sure until you try it and see how hot the housing gets. I know that mine gets really hot (barely can hold your hand on it) at 700mA if you are standing still but does OK when riding and is getting some convective cooling. Yours looks like it has more thermal mass to it, but similar surface area. Let us know how it goes. -Jon
Hi Jon, I just figured I'd post an update on my light. I've been running it for about 9 months now with no problems at all. It's been completely reliable so far. I get at least 2 hrs of light with a full charge out of it and have yet to run it dry. As far as the heat is concerned.... The extra thermal mass seems to make a huge difference for my light. It barely get's hot at all! Just slightly warm. If you remember, I'm only using 2 of the 3 LED's on the board. because of my battery selection I did not have enough voltage to drive all 3 LED's. (7.2 V 3300 MAh Nimh) That being said, I am running them dangerously close to 1000 mA so they are pushing a lot of light. so far so good (knock on wood) Regarding the optics, I also think the beam is a little too wide for my trail riding. on the other hand my buddy has a light that is too narrow. I definitely need something in the middle of the two. Well, I was googling for new optics since LED supply had no new offerings and I came across this: http://www.luxeonstar.com/Carclo-18-Deg-Tri-Lens-With-Holder-p/10507.htm At 18 deg, I think it may just be the sweet spot I'm looking for. I ordered 2 and will let you know how it goes. -Mike
never mind on the 18 degree lens. It will ONLY fit on the the luxeonstar boards. you will have to purchase their 3-up board in order to use that lens. it does not fit on the LED supply board. different LED spacing :-(
jmengel (author)  michael.su4 years ago
Glad to hear that everything continues to work well. Thanks for the tip on the optics, I have been looking at doing a Cree XPG star based light that will have a 16.4 degree optic. I agree that for trail riding the rebel 3-up optic that LED supply sells is too wide, but for city riding and visibility it is great. Keep up the good work. -Jon
Thanks, I thought about machining some fins into it but didn't have the time. I guess I could still groove it if I need to. or attach a heatsink to the top. I also added screws to hold down the Star so I don't have to pot it just in case I burn it out and need to swap it. I am going to put some heatsink grease under it to help with the thermal transfer. Which resister would I need to change?
Seezor4 years ago
I've made this and I like it.  Easy to make and use.  Very simple mounting.  The only thing I did not like was the light itself.  Not knowing I got the one you suggested and it just does not do it for me as far as a good beam.  I will be making another to be helmet mounted using this led.
http://ledsupply.com/creexpg-w417.php
When I talked to a person at LED supply, he told me this was their latest and greatest and has a few different selections for optics.  I've done a dual mount side by side using these and they are very good.  Using your design I've also done side by side tubes Bike mounted I call my Double Barrels using these
http://ledsupply.com/luxeon-leds.php
I like these also because of the selction of optics I get a better beam.  Thanks for your design and I look forward to making more
One other thing I did was to mount my Buck puck on the battery housing which sits in a top tube bag near the handle bars.  No reason for that except not confident enough to square out the end of the tube.  CS
jmengel (author)  Seezor4 years ago
I've been working on a design with the CREE XPG, it looks like a great LED way better (30% or more) than the Rebels.  The optics choices for the XPG star are also great as you discovered.  The XPG and optics are a little smaller than the Rebel stars and will make centering and sealing a little trickier, but worth the upgrade.

Thanks for trying these out and check out my newer design (still about 9 months old) below for a cleaner looking housing. 

http://www.instructables.com/id/Improved-high-power-LED-bike-head-light-with-integ/
peterlonz4 years ago
Good detailed instructable.
IMHO the soldering processes are a bit difficult & I suspect the junction temp may be right on the limit ,although even if it should cut the life by 80%, I suppose that's no matter really.
Problem as always is getting a conducting medium to get the heat away & I am not keen on conducting epoxy.
I wish you could hurry the update, I bet you have some real improvements to show us.
jmengel (author)  peterlonz4 years ago
Barring getting the Rebel LED chips and building your own heat sink and PCB combo, the star boards are the only game in town.  Do you have any ideas?  I've got no data to show that the LED junction temp is too hot, and have seen no failures.  That said, the light has less than 1000 hours on it.

If you look at the thermal conductivity of stuff that you could realistically put between the PCB/star and the heat sink there is not a product out there that is better than a conductive epoxy.  Conductive epoxies contain conductive particles, and outside of Aluminum Nitride and diamond, the best thermal conductors are all electrically conductive.  The difference between a thermal and conductive epoxy is the amount of solid filler.  The electrically conductive epoxy is loaded past the so-called percolation threshold and therefore has reduced resistance (both electrical and thermal).  The advantage of the isolated backplane of the star board is that you can use a conductive epoxy which has a higher solids content and therefore higher thermal conductivity.

BTW, the new doc is up.
michael.su4 years ago
I'm also looking forward to it!
jmengel (author)  michael.su4 years ago
steam punk-ish
wiredcur4 years ago
Looking forward to it!!
baratacus4 years ago
You don't want to blind other people on the road with you.  Not only will you make motorists angry and endanger people by blinding them so they can't see, but you can be ticketed and fined for opperating a vehicle in a hazardous manner.   The flood light is great for off road applications where you need to see rocks and chuckholes, low branches... but for on-road, you need a focused beam for a light that intense.
It's the same reason  that motorists who put HID xenon lights in a normal lamp housing without a focusing lense get fined and ticketed.

Excellent headlight option.  Once focused, you can probably go with a less powerfull setup and your battery pack will last longer.  Lithium is the way to go for high power output in a small size.
jmengel (author)  baratacus4 years ago
I disagree.  As a cyclist in a world built for cars I want to be seen. The brighter and more splash the better to increase visibility. I'm not advocating a blinding sun-like beacon but I can't see how the 25+ degree lens on my light is any more blinding than the headlights on any truck or SUV at eye level to a motorist in a car.  I've ridden with people who have lower powered and tightly focused LED bikelights and while they have a nice throw out to 100+ feet they are surprisingly invisible to oncoming motorists outside that 10 degree cone.  I prefer to see as well as be seen.  Case and point my latest tail-light project has 100+ lumens of wide angle (160 degrees at 50%) light which is way better than the common LED blinkies with a 15 degree pattern.  How many times have you come up in your car on a cyclist with one of those anemic red LED flashers clipped to their black backpack and pointing the wrong way so as to be practically invisible?  Really common around the colleges here and on the sidewalks which is a recipe for disaster.

Lithium batteries are certainly superior in terms of energy density.  My latest light has a low and flash mode which extends the battery life of the LiFEPo pack significantly.  Like the aforementioned tail-light project, I have been meaning to write this up in an Instructable but have not found the time or energy.

Stay safe!
I agree that visibility is an issue, but putting out 600lm of light in an unfocused beam, That lamp puts out way more light than the 60 watt incandescent bulb in your photos.   If it's as bright as you indicate then that is an issue.  My car has old-school seald headlights and it puts out less light with the highbeams on than that LED light you built.  If that light wasn't focused it would blind anyone looking at it.  You would be visible, but the motorists wouldn't be able to see anything else after they were night blinded by your light.    If you want more visibility then a multi directional lower output light would be a good start. I think the 100 lumen tail light you mentioned sounds perfect, and would do good as a front marker light as well.  In california though, on-road, you would be fined for running a 600 lumen  light  without focusing it.
jmengel (author)  baratacus4 years ago
Uhh, and keeping wildlife, an amphibious rodent, for uh, domestic, you know, within the city - that ain't legal in CA either. (Walter)

Standard halogen headlights perform in the 15 lumens per watt range.  Typical low beams are 45W and high beams 65W for roughly 700 and 1000 lumens respectively.  Sealed beams have compromised reflector designs but still put out a lot of light.  Just more spill.  So with your high beams on, your old school headlights would be putting out 3400 lumens total L and R.  Which is brighter?  Now if were talking a padiddle all bets are off.

http://www.sylvania.com/ConsumerProducts/AutomotiveLighting/Products/Halogen/StandardHalogenProducts/

Additionally, I think you are confusing the lumen rating and candela rating (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Candela).  A 600 lumen light with a 10 degree lens would appear much brighter than a 600 lumen light with a 25 degree lens.  The focused light would have roughly 6 times the candela rating and be 6 times as bright.  As to which impinges more light onto an oncoming driver's eyes is a complicated function of the optics of the systems in question and the emission pattern of the LED arrays as well as the aiming of the lights. Similarly, the poor reflector of a sealed headlight and the broad spread of the design in general may make them seem dimmer (low candela) than a focused LED but the headlights are still putting out a heck of a lot more light than the LED bike light.

So let's just agree to disagree and I promise not to ride with my light in CA.

I don't dissagree at all.   The police here in my city are ticket happy when it comes to unfocused headlights.   They are'nt very concerned when it comes to satndard bike lights because they don' t typically put out more than 50 lm's of light.  I think a flood will provide you with much more visability than a spot.  I think with your light it may require some focusing for the law enfrorcement  officers to be ok with it.   That of course is pure speculation based on the sample pictures you provided.   Personally I intend to make one of your lights for myself, cause it's just too damn cool a project not to build.   When I do, I'lll be able to see first hand whether or not focusing the light is a concern.   focusing the light  is a very simple matter, and if I do feel it's necessary it will be pretty easy to shape the beam. 
jmengel (author)  baratacus4 years ago
If you plan on building, I'd say wait a bit until I get the latest instructions ready as the latest light design is much improved.
Thankyou so much for making this! you have inspired me to make one so I did. I made it last spring and have enjoyed ever since. I ended up using a cree M-CE led.  I then used the thermal paste to glue a 1in and 3/4in pipe cap back to back and followed your directions. I have had fun with the battery pack though, its been a struggle.
My pack consists of 4 18650 lithium cells. I use 3/4pvc for the case. I put a nice screw top on it so the batteries can slide out. And just tonight have I figured out how to securely fasten it to the bike in a way I like. This has been a great project!
The second picture has version 1 of the battery pack...it failed...
IMG_5716.JPGIMG_5717.JPG
jmengel (author)  speeddemon20084 years ago
Looks good.  Any problems with the toggle leaking in the rain?
I have mounted my light to the underside of my handlebars, so the switch is at the bottom usually. I dont even have the back of the case to the light covered. I figured rain isnt likely to come back and hit it from the back side, and I keep my bike indoors. So no I have not had any problems with rain yet... but there is most definitely a possibility since I do live in Oregon, rain all the time. I drive my light at 700ma and it is rated for 740 lumens at 700ma. My friends all say it looks like a motorcycle from head on, and when I ride past someone I often hear "Oh geez, I thought that was a car." I do keep the light pointed down as I do not want to blind anyone, but there is still enough scattered light to illuminate street signs. Im tempted to make an Instructable about my battery pack, for specific use with this type of high draw bike light, and more universally for the 18650 battery cell; what do you think?
I want to make this but...... i have no idea on what voltage to power it. i want to power it with some duracell 2650mah AA battery cause i can get them cheap at my swap meet but.. i don't know  how many  do i have to buy.

Help me out in clueless at the moment Thanks
jmengel (author)  Jr Hacking kid4 years ago
Depends on the driver and LED you choose.  The driver used in this instructable requires an input voltage greater than the LED forward voltage.  Since I used 3 LEDs in series I needed to have an input voltage greater than the LED forward voltage at the set current times 3.  Which was 3.4 volts times 3 = 10.2 volts at 700mA.  The driver needs 2 extra volts to run so the input voltage needs to be 12.2 volts or greater to maintain 700mA.  If you used 2650mAh AA alkaline batteries you are going to need at least 8 of them since they are 1.5 volts each and you need 12 volts.  In practice, as the 8 AA lose voltage over time during use, the current output to the LED will drop slightly as the driver chip will not be able to maintain 700mA.  If you use 9 or 10 AA in series to get 13.5 or 15 volt input you will get 700mA for a much longer duration.  The maximum number of alkaline AA cells you can use is going to be 21 cells or 32V.  All this information is available in the LED and buck-puck driver datasheets.

Good luck.
oh they are rechargeable 1.2v 2650mah AA battery so in my case i need 10 of those to get 12 volts right what if i have 12 battery cells will that work also and yea im just going to make it according to your plans i like how it looks and i can just buy all the parts in one place without waiting for the parts  to be shipped all the way from china to hawaii. thanks for helping me.
dcbrc24 years ago
Really nice job on this: I really wanted to "do it right" using a driver and LED's, this really gets me going.

One question: is there any reason that the buck puck needs to be in the light unit?  The way I'm thinking of doing mine would be more convenient with the buck puck at the power pack.  That shouldn't be a problem, should it?

Thanks,

--David
michael.su5 years ago
jmengel (author)  michael.su5 years ago
Nice job. Good to see it works.

Update: I've had a chance to tinker around with some of the LED drivers I have laying around. I've found one of the DX drivers I have is a true boost type driver. I've run a Rebel 3-up at >800mA and Vf~10.3V with a 5V source. I've also poked around enough with this circuit to figure out the layout to where I can change both the low and high mode set currents. The circuit comes configured to run pretty hot, with high mode current at nearly 1000mA regardless of what the DX description says. I dropped that to around 600mA and am happy with the output. The strobe mode is nice as well, with current draw <200mA. The strobe is a bit fast but hard to ignore for oncoming drivers as long as no seizures are induced. A bit more pricey but the multiple modes are a nice plus.

http://www.dealextreme.com/details.dx/sku.25516

The above driver is CURRENTLY based on the FP5138 boost IC. No telling how long that will last but after digging around for a long time I was able to ID this chip and make mods to the circuit successfully.

http://www.micro-bridge.com/data/Feeling-tech/FP5138_AN.pdf
That looks good Jon. Very good price considering how few options there are out there for this application. The multiple modes are not real useful for me, I just like on/off. I pretty much stick to trail riding but at the price, I can deal with it. I can't get the link to the datasheet you posted to work. not sure if they are just having server problems but what did you need to do to modify the circuit to lower the current output?
jmengel (author)  michael.su5 years ago
The PDF link is slow but still works for me. If you need it I can email it. Send me a private message if that is the case. They sand the identifying marks off of a lot of the ICs on these boards for some reason, so figuring out which IC was used was a pretty big PITA for me but I am happy with the results. I guess they sand off the markings to keep from getting out-China-ed by even lower cost board houses. A race to the bottom.

If you don't like the extra modes you can simply cut away the bottom (battery side) board with the microcontroller, toss it, and apply the battery - wire to the single post and the battery + wire to the middle post of the three posts on the top board (the one with the inductor). The current setpoint will be 250mA in that case. Just need to change out the resistor on the top to get a different current. It is a 2 Ohm as delivered and by lowering it to a 1 Ohm the current will be 500mA. Equation for current is: i=0.5/R Where R is the set resistance.
michael.su5 years ago
update, Using a 9 volt battery instead of my 7.2 nimh I get an ammeter reading of 52 vs the 7.5 reading so the input voltage is directly related to the current. It does not appear that I am getting any voltage boost from the LED driver board. Perplexing to my feeble mind. I took everything apart and wired in the second LED driver board in to rule out damage to the first one creating a problem but the test results are pretty much the same :-( Not sure where to go from here....... -Mike
jmengel (author)  michael.su5 years ago
I've gone back and looked at my circuits. While the DX site appears to have previously sold ZXSC310 based boards the ones I have are based on a SOIC-8 chip that has its markings sanded off. My guess is that the circuits are similar but without the same board as yours any testing I would do is not helpful. The ZXSC310 board you have should be capable of boosting to the voltages needed to power your 3-Up Rebel star. My guess is that with the increased Vf of the 3-star some of the components are not sized appropriately for stable boost operation. Further, my guess is that the output capacitor is not large enough. Try adding additional capacitance between the LED+ wire and GND (battery negative). I'd add 40-50 uF with a voltage rating of at least 15V. See if that doesn't increase the current output. -Jon
Thanks for the suggestion. I added a 47 uF (50v) Capacitor. No change in voltage or current. :-( I saw that LED supply offers a "boost puck". looks like it's just what I need. it's a bummer that they are only regulated at 350 mA though......if only they had a 500 mA version. I can't seem to find any other similar products around the net. Have you seen any other LED drivers that are designed to boost voltage? not enough people using this stuff yet I guess....
jmengel (author)  michael.su5 years ago
In theory there is no reason that a circuit based on the ZXSC310 reference designs should not work unless it is wired as a buck rather than boost config. A way to check would be using a multimeter or eyeballs check to see if the inductor is wired to the pins on the ZXSC310 as shown in all the application examples, from the + battery to the collector on the switching transistor. You can use these wikipedia links to check the topology:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buck_converter

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boost_converter

Are there any markings on the 3-pin IC in the center of your board? This is the transistor and should have a voltage rating high enough to handle the expected boost voltage. Another check would be to monitor the signal on the VDrive pin on the ZXSC310 to see if it is truly switching the transistor and to estimate the duty cycle using an oscilloscope.
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