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LED driving and controlling methodsAuthor
Giorgos Lazaridis
February 5, 2012

I decided to write this quick tutorial for two reasons: First because there are many people who would like to know more about driving and controlling LED lights, and second because i was provided an excellent LED driver chip from Farnell for test, and i wanted to put it under the microscope. So i will place this chip against some other LED drivers to see how good it is.

The chip that I'm talking about is the A6210 from Allegro Microsystems. It is a Buck-Regulating LED Driver able to drive up to 3A load with constant current, with switching frequencies up to 2 MHz and supply voltage from 9 to 46 volts. It has an optional PWM input to control the brightness of the LED. The sense voltage is down to 0.18 volts for higher efficiency.

The previous description may sound Greek to you, but after reading this tutorial you will be able to design your own LED driver. Special thanks to Farnell and Element14 for offering three of these chips for test.


You can now start reading the theory pages:


Page 1: Quick info about LEDs and LED voltage control with limiting resistor

The simplest method to drive an LED
[ Go to this page ]


Page 2: Single Transistor Constant Current Driver

Driving more than one LEDs with constant current

[ Go to this page ]


Page 3: Single Transistor Constant Current Driver with voltage regulation

Driving more than one LEDs with constant current regardless of the supply voltage

[ Go to this page ]


Page 4: The Transistor - MOSFET Constant Current Driver

A more efficient system to drive LEDs with constant current regardless of the supply voltage

[ Go to this page ]


Page 5 and 6: Injecting PWM pulses to control the brightness of the LEDs

After having explained the basic methods to drive LEDs with constant current, i explain how can someone modify these circuits to control their brightness

[ Go to this page ]



Videos
Episode 1: Presentation of the LED voltage control with limiting resistor [ Click here to read the full article ]





Episode 2: Presentation of the Single Transistor Constant Current LED Driver [ Click here to read the full article ]





Episode 3: Presentation of the Single Transistor Constant Current LED Driver with Voltage Regulation [ Click here to read the full article ]





Episode 4: Presentation of the Dual Transistor Constant Current LED Driver with Voltage Regulation [ Click here to read the full article ]










   Continue reading. Click here to view the worklog.


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  • At 1 August 2014, 19:56:09 user Ancel wrote:   [reply @ Ancel]
    • @Giorgos Lazaridis Hi, I'd like to create a 7 segment constant current driver using these transistors. Is there a way to use a single resistor current reference or will I need one for each segment?


  • At 6 May 2014, 0:44:48 user Giorgos Lazaridis wrote:   [reply @ Giorgos Lazaridis]
    • @oliver You can connect the output of the arduino at an open-collector transistor circuit. Say a 1K resistor goes to the base of an NPN, the emitter goes to the ground and the collector goes to the input of this circuit. It will provide enough sink current.


  • At 20 April 2014, 9:23:39 user oliver wrote:   [reply @ oliver]
    • @Giorgos Lazaridis

      Thanks for the great tutorials. With the transistor-MOSFET driver, when connecting an Arduino PWM pin, only half the current is flowing through the LED, even at 100% duty cycle. I assume this PWM is not sinking current? How to connect an arduino (or any microcontroller PWM output) properly?


  • At 18 April 2014, 3:51:40 user MaxiD wrote:   [reply @ MaxiD]
    • I can put another transistor that controls the gnd bjt transistor for use with pwm?


  • At 22 March 2014, 9:13:13 user Giorgos Lazaridis wrote:   [reply @ Giorgos Lazaridis]
    • @Leon Not quite sure, sorry


  • At 18 March 2014, 12:55:22 user Leon wrote:   [reply @ Leon]
    • can we apply this to operate a laser diode?


  • At 2 February 2014, 1:34:02 user Giorgos Lazaridis wrote:   [reply @ Giorgos Lazaridis]
    • @karthikeyan check out the datasheet of the LED, this is where you find the info


  • At 2 February 2014, 1:28:06 user karthikeyan wrote:   [reply @ karthikeyan]
    • dear sir can you send to my email about ampere and voltage of one led


  • At 26 December 2013, 21:21:45 user thiru wrote:   [reply @ thiru]
    • VR voltage 230vAc and LED voltage is 15vAc now resistor value? so please send the formula as soon as possible.


  • At 14 December 2013, 15:58:32 user fabelizer wrote:   [reply @ fabelizer]
    • Very helpful! Thanks for all your work!


  • At 14 October 2013, 12:14:30 user Giorgos Lazaridis wrote:   [reply @ Giorgos Lazaridis]
    • @yony Simply provide PWM pulses to the proper PWM input of the circuits is the easiest way. Foe more sophisticated solutions you have to do the research yourself


  • At 14 October 2013, 6:44:32 user yony wrote:   [reply @ yony]
    • Can you please show how can these circuits be incorporated with a microcontroller?

      I'm in a search for an efficient way to drive a 1 watt LED via Arduino (right now I'm using a non-efficient way to do this with a TIP120 transistor and 2 resistors which one of them needs to be at least 1 watt resistor).
      Thank you


  • At 16 June 2013, 1:03:14 user jai ochani wrote:   [reply @ jai ochani]
    • please advice me the circuit diagrm for 12v out put, 2Amp led driver.


  • At 14 February 2013, 9:14:10 user Giorgos Lazaridis wrote:   [reply @ Giorgos Lazaridis]
    • @shamim get a n-channel


  • At 11 February 2013, 3:46:22 user shamim wrote:   [reply @ shamim]
    • we wanted to drive a LED using Mosfet. what Mosfet to use???


  • At 16 January 2013, 7:39:39 user Giorgos Lazaridis wrote:   [reply @ Giorgos Lazaridis]
    • @Ian for 90% efficiency you will need other type of circuits, not a linear driver. An SMPS instead


  • At 14 January 2013, 5:22:32 user Ian wrote:   [reply @ Ian]
    • Hi Giorgos,

      I'm wishing to use currents between 10mA and 1A depending upon the type of LED connected. I'd like the efficiency to be 90% plus if possible. I've seen Rds(on) values as low as 0.021 ohm, which I'd guess would translate into less power losses?

      I'm guessing that from a 5v PIC micro that a logic level mosfet is the only way to go as opposed to a normal mosfet?

      Thank you, Ian


  • At 14 January 2013, 1:17:48 user Giorgos Lazaridis wrote:   [reply @ Giorgos Lazaridis]
    • @Ian depends on the current and your efficiency requirements. Typically, on resistance of mosfets is very low. In many cases it is lower than 1Ohm (not high current mosfets). What current requirements you have? More than 1 amp?


  • At 11 January 2013, 9:49:19 user Ian wrote:   [reply @ Ian]
    • Hi Giorgos, Thank you for your help with current measurement. Can you also tell me in the selection of a power MOSFET if Rds(on) should be as low as possible or doesn't it matter? I'm presuming the MOSFET is operating in saturation mode or would be if PWM was applied to the gate? Thank you, Ian


  • At 6 January 2013, 21:34:43 user Giorgos Lazaridis wrote:   [reply @ Giorgos Lazaridis]
    • @Ian I put the scale of the multimeter to amperes and connected it in series with the LED


  • At 6 January 2013, 14:01:19 user Ian wrote:   [reply @ Ian]
    • Hello Giorgos, Could you tell me how you measured the current through the LEDs as shown in your photos please? Thank you, Ian


  • At 3 January 2013, 0:41:11 user adithyan wrote:   [reply @ adithyan]
    • Circuits are plenty for pwm control of led brightness. It is agreed that there cannot be a linear control of led brightness. Assuming that the pwm controls applied and the led current exceeds the 20ma limit in case of 4mm and 5mm Leds and 350ma in one watt, how a feed back control either shuts off the led or keeps the led current at maximum is yet to be published


  • At 2 October 2012, 8:17:29 user Ajay wrote:   [reply @ Ajay]
    • Pls. give detail related to LED Driver Design.

      Regards
      Ajay


  • At 28 September 2012, 11:38:22 user Giorgos Lazaridis wrote:   [reply @ Giorgos Lazaridis]
    • @kwstas there is no "specific" number. I would not go above 3.3 volts though, just to maintain the power dissipation on the emitter resistor low.


  • At 27 September 2012, 0:44:27 user kwstas wrote:   [reply @ kwstas]
    • @Giorgos Lazaridis Thank you very much but i'm asking about the zener diodes..


  • At 26 September 2012, 10:48:15 user Giorgos Lazaridis wrote:   [reply @ Giorgos Lazaridis]
    • @kwstas same diodes (1n4001 if i remember well or similar)


  • At 26 September 2012, 10:15:07 user kwstas wrote:   [reply @ kwstas]
    • I would like to tell me what diodes did you use for the 1w Led.
      Thank you


  • At 9 March 2012, 0:53:16 user Giorgos Lazaridis wrote:   [reply @ Giorgos Lazaridis]
    • @Ghlargh although i plan to use such drivers, i will not go into details.


  • At 9 March 2012, 0:46:17 user Giorgos Lazaridis wrote:   [reply @ Giorgos Lazaridis]
    • @Alvie it is the most stable of all. i tried it with 10w led. i prepare video for this.


  • At 8 March 2012, 23:46:04 user Ghlargh wrote:   [reply @ Ghlargh]
    • You should, if possible, explain how multiple constant current drivers with a single reference resistor work. Such as the Allegro A6282


  • At 8 March 2012, 14:13:28 user Alvie wrote:   [reply @ Alvie]
    • Regarding the BJT MosFET circuit:

      Can you prove it's stability ? Just by looking at the diagram I think it might oscillate, eventually at high frequencies, and eventually amplify the thermal noise.


  • At 7 March 2012, 12:10:23 user Daniel wrote:   [reply @ Daniel]
    • hey you should take a look at how leds could be used as sensors(ldrs)
      http://www.instructables.com/id/Light-Sensing-LEDs/


  • At 25 February 2012, 22:32:30 user Giorgos Lazaridis wrote:   [reply @ Giorgos Lazaridis]
    • @Lupin Thank you very much for pinpointing those mistakes. You are right for both. The first one is already corrected, as for the second i will recompile the video. Thanks for noticing it soon.


  • At 25 February 2012, 14:54:05 user Lupin wrote:   [reply @ Lupin]
    • Just wanted to mention, tha in the example it seems you forgot to subtract V_Z in the calculation of I_RB_MAX.

      On the other hand, I got an issue on how you calculated P_RB in the video (around 5:50). You added the base current to I_RB_MAX. Isn't that already included?

      Still many thanks for all the explanations and videos! I'm teaching a beginners electronics course (diodes, transistors, opamps) next semester at uni. Teaching applications, when you got to do theory first always falls short. I guess I'll refer some students to your page if they want to know more.





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