Lighting: January 2010 Archives

DealExtreme is one of my favorite online stores. It's a distributor of inexpensive electronic gadgets based in China. I'm always finding something new there. The latest treasure is this little-but-very-bright bare LED: 10WattLEDsku_5876_1.jpg

DealExtreme lists it as a 10 watt LED (SKU 5876). Unbelievably it's just under $12 with shipping included!

Looking at the die shows that it is 9 discrete high-powered white LEDs in a single package. DealExtreme is bad about specs, but the comments in the DX forum seem to suggest that 700 mA at 12 volts is a reasonable spec for this LED. This would yield 8.4 watts.

(I'm wondering though if it isn't 3 x 350 mA @ 3.5 serial LEDs in a 3 parallel strings, which would be 1050 mA @ 10.5 volts. But for now, I'll run it at 700 mA).

DealExtreme lists it as 500-600 lumens @ 6500K color temperature.

As with most LEDs, you need a good current regulated driver circuit since you can't just run these things off a resistor. I decided that the easiest and simplest driver would be one based off the amazingly versatile LM317 chip.

As before, these sites have good javascript based circuit diagrams for calculating LED driver circuitry:

Plugging my values (700 mA) into them yielded the need for a 1.8 ohm resistor with my LM317. Here's the schematic that I designed around those figures (courtesy of ExpressPCH):


Bodged together and plugged into a li-ion pack from my model helicopter and voila, an amazing amount of light. I'm thinking of using it on the headlight of my Piaggio (which currently uses a 3-watt LED) or to replace the bulb on my old 15-watt Niterider headlight, which has seen happier days.


(More photos and photometric testing after the jump)

LED Voltmeter

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Found a great article that describes how to make a LED voltmeter using a chip designed specifically for that, the LM3914.

Happy new year! A new decade!
I've been playing with LEDs for my EV and robotics projects. It doesn't seem to make sense to use incandescent bulbs in an EV build -- it'd ruin the whole concept of going green.

LEDs are tricky to deal with though, especially the high-output "star" type LEDs that are emerging. Rather than voltage regulation, you have to regulate the amount of current that goes through them. This isn't fixed, because as an LED heats up, its resistance goes down (unlike an incandescent filament whose resistance goes up as it heats up, thus self-regulating). If it gets too hot, it goes into thermal runaway and you soon have what ledophiles call a Dark Emitting Diode (DED) -- dead, get it?.

So, you need some form of a current regulating system. For small 3mm or 5mm LEDs, people just use a fixed resistor since the current demand is rather small, around 20 ma. This limits the maximum current that can go through -- but it also limits the max brightness because you have to put in a safety factor and you can't easily adjust for fluctuating voltage.

Here's a good javascript calculator for series/parallel LED resistors:

The problem with 5mm LEDs is that the clear plastic casing limits the amount of heat that the LED can output (and yes, LEDs do produce waste heat, although not as much as incandescent lights). Heat control is one of the main factors affecting the output of LEDs and the reason why manufacturers went to the star configuration, which allows you to directly back the LED with a heatsink -- which lets the LED current jump from 20 mA to 350 mA with a concomitant light output.

WhiteLED-Cree.gifNow, if you want to use a high output Luxeon or Cree star, you also have to current regulate as mentioned before. The typical white high-output LED takes 350 ma with a forward voltage drop of 3.5 volts. With a light output of 120 lumens, this is good enough for a moped, scooter or bicycle headlight.

Cree even has a high-power star that consists of four of their 120 lumen LEDs mounted on a single die. This produces 480 lumens, although you'll need to regulate four x 350 ma. There are other stars that bundle 2 x 120 or 3 x 120 lumen LEDs. More than enough to blind you -- or for a car or motorbike headlamp.

For high power LEDs, the LM317 seems a good choice for current regulating at a low cost. Here's a good javascript calculator for that:

and some more info on why current regulation is necessary:

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This page is a archive of entries in the Lighting category from January 2010.

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