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Optoelectronics/Displays??

Techniques for enabling dimmable LED bulbs

Posted: 11 Jun 2014 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:LED? CFL lamps? dimmable? dimmers? triac?

The bi-directional firing circuit shown in figure 1 requires a resistive path to neutral to operate as it was designed to. If instead the load is capacitive, this circuit cannot function correctly which will result in erratic firing from one cycle to the next that shows up as a flickering light output. The presence of EMI filters in the dimmer and the LED driver also creates ringing oscillations caused by the high dv/dt at triac switch on.

These oscillations, if large enough, can cause the current to fall below the holding current making the triac switch off instead of remaining in conduction until the next line zero crossing. This is often made worse by the firing circuit re-triggering the triac so that it switches on and off several times during a single line half cycle. Apart from stressing the components and quite possibly damaging the dimmer or LED driver this creates severe flickering and unpleasant audible noise.

Assuming that replacing the dimmer with one designed to operate with LED lamps is not the desired solution, the LED driver can be modified to eliminate the problem described above so that it may be used with a standard dimmer.

Figure 3: Dimmable LED driver schematic.

The example circuit in figure 3 is a single stage LED Flyback converter; the same techniques can also be applied to a Buck-Boost or to an adapted Buck converter. Firstly it is necessary when designing the input filter to keep the input capacitance to a minimum, which also helps to attain the best possible power factor.

The next step is to introduce the active damper and passive bleeder circuits. The damper circuit limits the inrush current when the triac fires greatly reducing ringing so that the triac remains on. After a short delay the damper resistor gets bypassed by a small MOSFET to prevent power loss during the remaining conduction period. To reduce cost to a bare minimum for low power drivers the bypass MOSFET and its associated drive circuitry can be omitted, however this creates some heat dissipation in the resistor and associated efficiency loss.

The passive bleeder circuit can be used to replace active bleeders used in some dimming solutions. This series RC network conducts current from the firing point long enough for the switching converter to start drawing current. This helps to ensure that the current does not drop below the holding current during that period. The Flyback or Buck-Boost converter operating with constant on time appears as a predominantly resistive load to the DC bus allowing conduction to occur through the dimmers triac until the next line zero crossing. It is essential that the converter draws sufficient current to remain above the triac holding current. A single stage PFC Flyback or Buck-Boost converter is normally able to do this.

The circuit implementation here uses the IRS2983 controller IC, which operates in voltage mode. The DC voltage level present at the COMP input determines the on time of the switching cycle. Since the controller IC is typically used with primary side regulation to maintain a constant output power, it is necessary to clamp the COMP voltage by adding a zener diode to this input. This sets a limit for the maximum on time so that during dimming when the DC bus voltage drops the on time cannot increase to compensate.

The result is that as the dimmer setting is reduced and the DC bus voltage drops the output current also reduces. This allows the light level to be dimmed to less than 20% by adjusting the dimmer control without the need for more complex circuitry to detect the dimmer phase angle and regulate the output. It is also necessary to discharge the controller VCC supply during the dimming off period to ensure the IC operates only during the required period. A high voltage diode is connected from VCC to the DC bus to accomplish this.

The active damper and passive bleeder circuits may also be used with a Buck converter, however results depend on the LED voltage. Since the converter cannot draw current while the line voltage is lower than the output voltage the phase dimming operating range is limited. For this reason lower LED voltage is desirable, however this cannot be too low or the circuit becomes inefficient requiring an impractically large inductor. For a 120VAC system to retain a reasonable range of adjustment a good trade-off for the LED voltage would be in the 20 to 40V range. A CCM Buck LED controller IC such as the IRS2980 maintains average current regulation to the LEDs while the unsmoothed bus voltage remains above the total LED output voltage.

The simple techniques explained here, when utilised with the type of LED converters described, can provide smooth and flicker free dimming with most triac based dimmers.

About the author
Peter Green is the LED Group Manager of International Rectifier.

To download the PDF version of this article, click here.


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