Lets discuss heatsinking.

Heat capacity

“Heat capacity (usually denoted by a capital C, often with subscripts), or thermal capacity, is the measurable physical quantity that shows the amount of heat required to change a substance’s temperature by a given amount. In the International System of Units (SI), heat capacity is expressed in units of joule(s) (J) per kelvin (K).”

Another link

Heat capacity list

Thermal conductivity

“In physics, thermal conductivity (often denoted k, λ, or κ) is the property of a material’s ability to conduct heat. ”

List of Thermal conductivities

Another List

List of density of materials
Density of brass= 8500Kg/meter cube or 8.5/cubic cm.
Aluminium= 2700kg/cubic m or 2.7g per cubic cm.

All right, to the point now. I’ve always had the impression that a brass heatsink was better. ’ It’s heavier so it will absorb more heat’. Specific heat capacity of brass is 0.38 kJ/Kg/Kelvin (0.38J/g/K) and that of aluminium is 0.87 kJ/kg/Kelvin (0.87 J/g/K). Given the thermal conductivity difference between brass (109-125) vs aluminium (204-250) I have begun questioning this concept. I’m currently believing that the better the themal conductivity of the metal, the faster the heat will be drawn away from the LED.

Brass is approximately 8.5/2.7=3.15 times the mass of aluminum for a given volume. With aluminium having a specific heat capacity of approximately (0.87/.038=2.29) 2.29 times that of brass, the mass of brass over tha of aluminium has little impact on the absorbtion of heat.

Is the above concept true then would you agree that brass has no place being the pill of a flashlight?

What’s your opinion and experience in general?


I'll throw this link from Wikipedia out there.


It's a tad bit over my head though. ;)

Most people cannot understand that there is a big difference between Copper and Brass, even if Brass is and Copper alloy.

Aluminum thermal conductivity of 204-250 is like from another world in the flashlight world, almost all aluminum used everywhere is 6061 with various tempers, so we have 160W/mK.


I agree with hikelite - I don’t think pills are usually pure aluminum, so the thermal conductivity is probably closer to brass, which *could make the heat capacity of brass advantageous

one thing i’m about to try, is direct soldering to brass. this might allow me to avoid making a custom copper heatsink (for lights w/ brass pill)

this unit is found in projectors that run hours on end, day after day.

luminus pt-54 brass subtrate, some sort of thermal paste between emitter and aluminum heat sink

and of course(not pictured) the projector has a fan that cools the heatsink and unlimited power supply(wall socket) which we dont have but the design itself is what interests me.

That I presume it's a copper substrate with gold plating, not brass. I would not imagine Luminous use brass for such high power LED.

gold as in pure gold or something else.

my pt-54 came w/ a similar heatsink, but no fan - instead, a peltier device. maybe someday battery tech will advance enough to make using a peltier in a flashlight feasible :slight_smile:

The PT-54 itself is most certainly not brass. It is a copper cored MCPCB and it is gold plated (Prevents corrosion).

The thermal resistance of the carrier is rated as 1.0 °C/W


It's common to plate copper with gold, since copper is prone oxidation, corrosion. A gold layer of 0.08um is applied.

On Luminous website they ask you to call in order to get that datasheet.

On mouser’s website, they don’t.

and on ebay, the red pt54s are MUCH cheaper than mouser. :beer:

just wish green were, too.

You’re assuming too many things here.

1) Heat does not penetrate all materials at the same rate.
2) Because heat does not travel through all materials at the same rate, heat does not dissipate (convection, conduction and radiation) from all materials at the same rate.
3) Heat does dissipate from materials, so the change in temperature will be less (much) than expected.

Given the thermal properties of the two materials, and assuming reasonable conduction from the pill to the host, I would actually assume Aluminum to be the superior material.

I remember acceleration equations in physics being easy back when we were allowed to ignore air resistance…


Back at laserpointerforums, some lasers in M@g lights do have Peltier coolers aka TEC’s to chill the laser diodes.

Link here: http://laserpointerforums.com/f42/tec-mag-445nm-firefarter-77157.html

However, they’re not prevalent because of the inefficiency; they require too much energy compared their cooling abilities.

I do hope TEC’s do become more efficient and are found more commonly!

Initially the most important quality of a heat sink is to conduct as much heat away from the source as possible. Any resistance to this flow of heat will create a thermal differential, just as electrical resistance will create a voltage differential. Once the heat is quickly spread out, away from the source it may be wise to use another, cheaper metal that has a higher heat capacity.
BTW, metals that are good electrical conductors are also good thermal conductors. Brass and copper are very good conductors of heat and are a good choice for first contact, in our case, with the led.
Thermal paste is important for good physical contact, but also good thermal contact. That is why I think it is a good idea to use artic SILVER between an led and a copper sink rather than artic ALUMINUM.

Oops, I meant to edit my post and instead deleted it entirely. Glad you responded before I did that.

You make some good points. The rate at which heat flows (heat current) for a given temperature gradient is a function of the thermal conductivity of the material. I was just talking about the ability of a given material to absorb heat and the resultant change in temperature for that material.

Heat does dissipate (it’s not a closed system so it’s not a classic calorimetry problem in which we can ignore the surrounding environment and find the equilibrium temperature) and how quickly that happens depends not only on the temperature gradient but the properties of the dissipating medium and the modes of transfer (convection, conduction, radiation). In the case of heat loss by radiation, by the Stefan-Boltzman law, the heat current is a function of the surface area of the radiating body, the fourth power of the absolute temperature of the body, and the body’s emissivity. I just looked at a table of emissivities and hadn’t realized it can vary so much for a single material (e.g., aluminium).

We do always make simplifying assumptions in physics. Sometimes that annoys students because they want to know why we’re not talking about air resistance and such but I always say we need to learn the basic principles first. Newton’s laws apply whether there’s air resistance or not, we just need to consider that force when we remove that simplifying assumption from our model.

A very fun discussion.

I was of the understanding that brass was used for flashlights (like P60 pills), because of the availability, the cost and the ease to machine thin wall parts with it. I don't think it has a blasted thing to to with heat transfer. Silver would be the best for a heat sink, copper second, aluminum third and all the rest are b*st**d step children. At least that's what I've been told over the years by many people more knowledgeable than I.

The problem I have with something like copper is that it is used as a heat sink and then put into an aluminum body light. That's like being on a four lane highway and then entering a construction zone when you hit the aluminum. The lanes go down to two lanes and there's a big traffic (heat) backup. The copper heat sink will now retain more heat, as it can't get rid of it fast enough through the aluminum and if it's left that way, it actually does more damage than if it was all aluminum. Of course, a light that put out that much heat would either be turned off by the user or the batteries would drain, before the heat became excessive, but the fact still remains that there is no real solution other than active cooling, if we desired high powered flashlights to stay on for long periods of time.

OL, you're forgetting diamond. I've heard it makes an amazing heatsink. Anyone wanna try it out on their jewelry? :P