Category Archives: Light Effects

Varying Brightness AC Lamp

In this circuit, an SCR is used to slowly vary the intensity of a 120 volt light bulb by controlling the time that the AC line voltage is applied to the lamp during each half cycle.

The circuit is directly connected to the AC power line and should be placed inside an enclosure that will prevent direct contact with any of the components. To avoid electrical shock, do not touch any part of the circuit while it is connected to the AC power line. A 2K, 10 watt power resistor is used to drop the line voltage down to 9 volts DC. This resistor will dissipate about 7 watts and needs some ventilation.

A couple NPN transistors are used to detect the beginning of each half cycle and trigger a delay timer which in turn triggers the SCR at the end of the delay time. The delay time is established by a current source which is controlled by a 4017 decade counter. The first count (pin 3) sets the current to a minimum which corresponds to about 7 milliseconds of delay, or most of the half cycle time so that the lamp is almost off. Full brightness is obtained on the sixth count (pin 1) which is not connected so that the current will be maximum and provide a minimum delay and trigger the SCR near the beginning of the cycle. The remaining 8 counts increment the brightness 4 steps up and 4 steps down between maximum and minimum. Each step up or down provides about twice or half the power, so that the intensity appears to change linearly. The brightness of each step can be adjusted with the 4 resistors (4.3K, 4.7K, 5.6K, 7.5K) connected to the counter outputs.

The circuit has been built by Don Warkentien (WODEW) who suggsted adding a small 47uF capacitor from ground to the junction of the current source transistor (PNP) to reduce the digital stepping effect so the lamp will brighten and fade in a smoother fashion. The value of this capacitor will depend on the 4017 counting rate, a faster rate would require a smaller capacitor.

Copyright 2006 [url=]Bill Bowden[/url]

Photo Electric Street Light

This is basically a Schmitt Trigger circuit which receives input from a cadmium sulfide photo cell and controls a relay that can be used to switch off and on a street lamp at dawn and dusk. I have built the circuit with a 120 ohm/12 volt relay and monitored performance using a lamp dimmer, but did not connect the relay to an outside light.

The photo cell should be shielded from the lamp to prevent feedback and is usually mounted above the light on top of a reflector and pointed upward at the sky so the lamp light does not strike the photo cell and switch off the lamp.

The photo cell is wired in series with a potentiometer so the voltage at the junction (and base of transistor) can be adjusted to about half the supply, at the desired ambient light level. The two PNP transistors are connected with a common emitter resistor for positive feedback so as one transistor turns on, the other will turn off, and visa versa. Under dark conditions, the photo cell resistance will be higher than the potentiometer producing a voltage at Q1 that is higher than the base voltage at Q2 which causes Q2 to conduct and activate the relay.

The switching points are about 8 volts and 4 volts using the resistor values shown but could be brought closer together by using a lower value for the 7.5K resistor. 3.3K would move the levels to about 3.5 and 5.5 for a range of 2 volts instead of 4 so the relay turns on and off closer to the same ambient light level. The potentiometer would need to be readjusted so that the voltage is around 4.5 at the desired ambient condition.

Copyright 2006 Bill Bowden

Line Powered White LEDs

The LED circuit above is an example of using 25 white LEDs in series connected to the 120VAC line. It can be modified for more or less LEDs by changing the R value. The exact resistance value will depend on the particular LEDs used.

In operation, a DC voltage of around 170 is produced from the bridge rectifier and 50uF capacitor. The capacitor value is not critical and can be anything from 20uF or more. The capacitor voltage must be 200 volts or more. You can find 200 volt 470uF capacitors in old PC computer power supplies.

To find the resistor value and wattage, multiply the number of LEDs by the individual LED voltage. Then subtract this number from 170 and divide the result by the desired current (usually 20 miliamps).

So, for example, using 25 LEDs with a forward voltage of 3 volts, the total will be 75 volts. Subtracting this from 170 leaves 95. Dividing 95 by 0.02 (20 milliamps) yields 4750 or 4.7K. The resistor power rating will be the current squared times the resistance or (.02)^2 *4700 = 1.88 watts.

So, the circuit below, using 25 LEDs, at 3 volts each, will require a 4.7K resistor at 2 watts or more.

Copyright 2006 Bill Bowden

Sunrise Lamp

In this circuit, a 120VAC lamp is slowly illuminated over a approximate 20 minute period. The bridge rectifier supplies 120 DC to the MOSFET and 60 watt lamp. A 6.2K, 5 watt resistor and zener diode is used to drop the voltage to 12 volts DC for the circuit power. The bridge rectifier should be rated at 200 volts and 5 amps or more. In operation, a 700 Hz triangle waveform is generated at pin 1 of the LM324 and a slow rising voltage is obtained at pin 8. These two signals are compared at pins 12 and 13 to produce a varying duty cycle rectangular waveform at pin 14, which controls the MOSFET and brightness of the 60 watt lamp. When power is applied, the lamp will start to illuminate within a minute or so, and will slowly brighten to full intensity in about 20 minutes. You can make that longer or shorter with adjustments to the 270K resistor at pin 9. The 2.2 ohm resistor and .015uF cap connected to the lamp serve to supress RFI. The diode at pin 9 and 10K resistor on pin 8 are used to discharge the 3300uF cap when power is removed. Power should be off for a few minutes before re-starting.

Caution: This circuit is connected directly to the AC line and presents a hazard if any part is touched while connected to the line. Use caution and do not touch any parts while the circuit is connected to the AC line. You may want to use a 9 volt battery connected across the 12 volt zener to check the basic operation. The DC voltage at pins 1,2,3,5,6,7 will all be around 4.3 volts if the circuit is working correctly. If the DC voltages are all correct, you can use a variac to slowly apply the full line voltage and check for proper operation.

Copyright 2006 Bill Bowden