Brighter LED options?
  • Hello! 

    If I was to adapt my Scanner Kitt to be much brighter, can you recommend any particular LED and resistor combinations?
  • It's not designed for high power LEDs, but if you really want to go MUCH brighter, you could always use the outputs to drive transistors that control higher output LEDs instead.  Do you have a particular LED in mind that you would like to use?
  • Hi, thanks!  I have nothing specific in mind, just so it's visible from a greater distance.  I was hoping to try something like the ProLight 1 watt, but regrettably I don't have the chops to determine what transistors I would need (I'm just good at following directions). ;-)
  • If you can figure out _exactly_ which LED you're looking at, and what power supply you'll be using, I can help recommend transistors and resistors.
  • Ideally I'd like to go very bright, like the "ProLight 1 Watt Warm White LED" from SuperBrightLEDs.com.  I hope to mount the completed unit in my car so ideally it could draw power there; if not I can always mount some batteries somewhere. 


  • So that LED can handle up to 350 mA, running at about 3.5 V.  If you're running from a car, that probably means 12 V power. To run the Larson Scanner PCB from that you would need to use a voltage regulator, perhaps a 7805 to reduce the 12 V to 5 V.


    For the LEDs, you will need 9 transistors, each wired up like those in the first illustration ("Transistor switch") here:
    https://learn.sparkfun.com/tutorials/transistors/applications-i-switches
    Each transistor requires there to be two resistors: R1 (the "base resistor") that goes between your microcontroller output and the base of the transistor, and R2 (the "load resistor") that goes between the 12 V power supply and the LED, attached to the collector of the transistor. 

     A good, cheap, and tough transistor that you could use would be the TIP31-- about $5 for 10 of them. 


     With the current that you'll be using, that transistor can give a gain factor out of about 100. So, to get 350 mA of collector current through the transistor, you will need about 35 mA out of the microcontroller outputs. If you're driving the Larson Scanner at 5 V, and each of its outputs goes to the base resistor, then you'll get about 4.5 V out of the microcontroller outputs. The base-emitter connection of the transistor takes about 7 V, leaving about 3.8 V. To get 35 mA at 3.8 V, you need the base resistor to be about 100 ohms.


    Now for the load resistor. With 12 V in, 3.5 V taken by the LED, and only about 0.1 V taken by the TIP31 collector-emitter voltage, that leaves about 8.4 V. To drop 8.4 V at 350 mA, you'll need a resistor of about 24 ohms. No problem there. However, its power dissipation is a concern: P = I * V, or 350 mA * 8.4 V = 2.94 W of power to dissipate. I'd recommend using at least a 5 W resistor for each of these.

  • Brilliant, thanks! I will keep you posted how it turns out. ;-)