LED Circuit-Power Source Considerations PCB
Power source considerations
The voltage versus current characteristics of an LED are similar to any diode. Current is approximately an exponential function of voltage according to the Shockley diode equation, and a small voltage change may result in a large change in current. If the voltage is below or equal to the threshold no current flows and the result is an unlit LED. If the voltage is too high the current exceeds the maximum rating, overheating and potentially destroying the LED.
It is therefore important that the power source provides an appropriate current. LEDs should only be connected to constant-current sources. Series resistors are a simple way to passively stabilize the LED current. An active constant current regulator is commonly used for high power LEDs, stabilizing light output over a wide range of input voltages which might increase the useful life of batteries. Low drop-out (LDO) constant current regulators also allow the total LED voltage to be a higher fraction of the power supply voltage. Switched-mode power supplies are used in some LED flashlights and household LED lamps.
Series resistors are a simple way to stabilize the LED current, but energy is wasted in the resistor.
Miniature indicator LEDs are normally driven from low voltage DC via a current-limiting resistor. Currents of 2 mA, 10 mA and 20 mA are common. Sub-mA indicators may be made by driving ultrabright LEDs at very low current. Efficiency tends to reduce at low currents, but indicators running on 100 μA are still practical.
In coin cell powered keyring-type LED lights, the resistance of the cell itself is usually the only current limiting device. The cell should not therefore be replaced with a lower resistance type.
LEDs can be purchased with built-in series resistors. These can save printed circuit board space and are especially useful when building prototypes or populating a PCB in a way other than its designers intended. However, the resistor value is set at the time of manufacture, removing one of the key methods of setting the LED's intensity.