Development of New Class of Optical Silicones Wins Innovation Award

Wacker Chemie AG bestowed its annual "Alexander Wacker Innovation Award" on Dr. Philipp Müller yesterday for his development of a new class of high-performance optical silicones. Uniquely, these novel silicone elastomers allow optical lenses for light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to be produced directly on an LED chip. This is accomplished in a single step without any complex injection molding or replication processes. The simultaneous shaping and mounting of LED optics is exceptionally efficient, making the technology a breakthrough for the cost-efficient mass production of LEDs. This year's €10,000 innovation award focused on product innovation.

"LEDs have enormous potential because of their energy efficiency. Accordingly, there are huge opportunities for growth in this market," Executive Board member Dr. Wilhelm Sittenthaler said in his laudatory speech. "We are expecting annual growth rates of 20 percent. So, this innovation promises to be a complete economic success for WACKER."

Light-emitting diodes are considered the light source of the future because they are highly luminous yet consume only a fraction of the energy required by conventional light bulbs or energy-saving lamps.

While modern, high-performance LEDs are around 10 times more efficient than incandescent light bulbs, they require a lens system to outcouple and diffuse the light emitted by the diode. The tremendous increase in LED performance within the last few years has meant that traditional organic materials are no longer capable of withstanding the light flux. For this reason, most modern high-performance LEDs will be manufactured in the future using silicone-based encapsulation and lens materials. There is a drawback, though. Up till now, the shape of the lenses (the lens geometry) could only be produced using difficult injection molding or replication processes.

LUMISIL silicone elastomers finally make it possible to produce a moldless optical lens directly on an LED chip, using a dispensing process in a single production step. Perfect replication of the lens geometry is accomplished through a novel, UV-activated curing mechanism. LUMISIL 419 UV's excellent adhesion even makes it possible to forgo the use of a silicone encapsulant, since, in addition to providing the lens material, it also protects the LED chip. In this manner, LED components with silicone lenses can now be manufactured in very large quantities with comparatively modest plant and process investment. LUMISIL is already being used by one of the global leaders in LED manufacturing, where this product's superb transparency, very good mechanical strength and long-term resistance to extreme UV exposure have been successfully demonstrated.

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