You are on page 1of 9

What is a Photodiode?

A photodiode is one type of light detector, used to convert the light into current or
voltage based on the mode of operation of the device. It comprises of optical filters,
built-in lenses and also surface areas. These diodes have a slow response time when
the surface area of the photodiode increases. Photodiodes are alike to regular
semiconductor diodes, but that they may be either visible to let light reach the delicate
part of the device. Several diodes intended for use exactly as a photodiode will also use
a PIN junction somewhat than the usual PN junction.

Some photodiodes will look like a light emitting diode. They have two terminals coming
from the end. The smaller end of the diode is the cathode terminal, while the longer
end of the diode is the anode terminal. See the following schematic diagram for the
anode and cathode side. Under forward bias condition, conventional current will flow
from the anode to the cathode, following the arrow in the diode symbol. Photocurrent
flows in the reverse direction.
In this article, we have seen about basics of LED and few important characteristics of
LED. In the next tutorial, we will see How an LED works and the construction of an

High – Power LEDs

An LED with power rating greater than or equal to 1 Watt is called a High Power
LED. This is because, normal LEDs have a power dissipation of few mill watts.

High – Power LEDs are very bright and are often used in Flashlights, Automobile
Headlamps, Spotlights, etc.

Since the power dissipation of High – power LEDs is high, proper cooling and usage
of heat sinks is required. Also, the input power requirement for these LEDs will be
usually very high.
Bi-color LEDs
The next type of LEDs are Bi-color LEDs, as the name suggests, can emit two
colors. Bi-color LEDs have three leads, usually two anodes and a common cathode.
Depending on the configuration of the leads, the color will be activated.

RGB LED (Red – Blue – Green LED)

RGB LEDs are the most favorite and most popular LEDs among hobbyists and
designers. Even computer builds are very popular for implementing RGB LEDs in
Computer Cases, Motherboards, RAMs, etc.

RGB LED contains 3 LEDs on a single chip and by a technique called PWM (Pulse
Width Modulation), we can control the output of the RGB LED to produce a wide
range of colors.

Types of LED
Through-hole LEDs
These are available in different shapes and sizes and the most common ones being
3mm, 5mm and 8mm LEDs. These LEDs are available in different colors like Red,
Blue, Yellow, Green, White, etc.
SMD LEDs (Surface Mount Light Emitting Diodes)
Surface Mount or SMD LEDs are a special packages that can be easily surface
mount on a PCB. SMD LEDs are usually differentiated based on their physical
dimensions. For example, the most common SMD LEDs are 3528 and 5050.

Simple LED Circuit

The following image shows the circuit of a simple LED Circuit consisting of a 5mm
White LED with a 5V power supply.
Since it is a White LED, the current and voltage ratings are as follows: typical
forward current is 20mA and typical forward voltage is 2V.

So, in order to regulate the current and voltage, we have used a 180 Ω Resister
rated for ¼ Watts of Power Dissipation.
Forward Current of LED
LEDs are very sensitive devices and the amount of current flowing through an LED is
very important. Also, the brightness of an LED depends on the amount of current
drawn by the LED.

Every LED is rated with a maximum forward current that is safe to pass through it
without burning off the LED. Yes. Allowing current more than the rated current will
actually burn the LED.

For example, most commonly used 5mm LEDs have a current rating of 20mA to
30mA and the 8mm LEDs have a current rating of 150mA (refer to the datasheet for
exact values).

How to we regulate the current flowing through an LED? In order to control the
current flowing through an LED, we make use of current limiting series resistors.

More information about LEDs and Current Limiting Resistors SIMPLE LED
Polarity of LED
Polarity is an indication of symmetricity of an electronic component. A Light Emitting
Diode, similar to a PN Junction Diode, is not symmetric i.e. it allows current to flow
only in one direction.

In an LED, the positive terminal is called as Anode and the negative terminal is
called as Cathode. For the LED to work properly, the Anode of the LED should be at
a higher potential than the Cathode as the current in LED flows from Anode to

What happens if we connect the LED in reverse direction? Well, nothing happens as
the LED would not conduct. You can easily identify the Anode terminal of an LED as
they usually have longer leads.

Characteristics of LED (Light Emitting Diode)

Before connecting an LED is a circuit and start using it, there are few characteristics
of LED that are worth knowing (actually, they are very important). If you refer to any
of the datasheets provided by the manufacturer, you can find a lot specification
corresponding to electrical characteristics, absolute maximum ratings, physical
dimensions etc.

Basics of LED (Light Emitting Diode)

As mentioned in the introduction, an LED is a semiconductor light source. It consists
of a PN Junction Diode and when voltage is applied to the LED, electrons and holes
recombine in the PN Junction and release energy in the form of light (Photons).

The light emitted by an LED is usually monochromatic i.e. of single color and the
color is dependent on the energy band gap of the semiconductor.

Light Emitting Diodes can be manufactured to emit all the wavelengths of visible
spectrum i.e. from Red (620nm to 750nm) to blue – violet (380nm to 490nm).

The electrical symbol of an LED is similar to that of a PN Junction Diode. The

following image shows a Red LED along with symbols of PN Junction Diode and