App note: Controlling LED lighting using triacs and quadracs

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Solid State device and circuits for controlling LEDs lighting, replacing conventional incandescent lamps, an App note from Littlefuse. Link here (PDF)

Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) are fast becoming the most popular lighting option. Industry forecasts anticipate the market will continue to expand at an annual rate of 20% from 2011 to 2016, with the greatest growth coming in the commercial and industrial lighting sectors. As incandescent lamps have been made largely obsolete, given the U.S. government’s mandate to save energy, they have frequently been replaced by LEDs due to their long life (typically 25,000 hrs.) and the ease of adapting them to many different socket and shape requirements. However, LED lighting control presents a few problems not encountered with incandescent lamps. For example, with much less current from the LED load, normal types of triacs may be challenged in terms of latching and holding current characteristics.

Triacs make up the heart of AC light dimming controls. Triacs used in dimmers have normally been characterized and specified for incandescent lamp loads, which have high current ratings for both steady-state conditions and initial high in-rush currents, as well as very high end-of-life surge current when a filament ruptures.

Because they are diodes, LEDs have much lower steady-state current than incandescent lamps, and their initial turn-on current can be much higher for a few microseconds of each half-cycle of AC line voltage. Therefore, a spike of current can be seen at the beginning of each AC half-cycle. Typically, the current spike for an AC replacement lamp is 6–8 A peak; the steady-state follow current is less than 100 mA.

Designing an AC circuit for controlling LED light output is very simple when using the new Q6008LH1LED or Q6012LH1LED Series Triacs because only a few components are required. All that is needed is a firing/triggering capacitor, a potentiometer, and a voltage breakover triggering device.

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